Not Real News

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a monkeypox virion, obtained from a sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. On Friday The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming the recent cases of monkeypox are actually just shingles, and the cases are a result of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

CLAIM: The recent cases of monkeypox are actually just shingles, and the cases are a result of the COVID-19 vaccine.

THE FACTS: Shingles and monkeypox are not the same and are caused by different viruses, according to experts, who also explained that COVID-19 vaccines cannot cause monkeypox. Many posts making the false claim include an outdated screenshot from a news site that incorrectly used a stock photo of a hand with a shingles rash to illustrate an article about monkeypox. That article was contrasted side-by-side with the same image on a page about shingles.

The headline over the photo on TheHealthSite.com, a health news website based in India, from July 17, 2021, reads: “Rare Monkeypox cases reported from US, First Time In Nearly 20 Years: All You Need To Know About It.”

Neither the photographer nor TheHealthSite.com responded to the AP’s request for comment.

Jonathan Ball, a life sciences professor at the University of Nottingham, explained that shingles is onset by a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the herpes virus that causes chickenpox. If a person had chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the nervous system and can re-emerge to cause shingles many years later.

Monkeypox is a rare disease related to the same virus family as smallpox, but with milder symptoms. It originates in wild animals like rodents and primates.

Both monkeypox and shingles cause a rash with small blisters, said Dr. Seth Blumberg, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco. Monkeypox affects the entire body, while shingles usually affects one narrow strip of skin on just one side of the body.

Blumberg added that COVID-19 vaccination would not cause monkeypox, saying, “you can only get monkeypox if you are directly exposed to the virus via an infected human or an infected animal.” According to medical experts, there have been some case reports of individuals getting shingles after being vaccinated for COVID. However, experts said those cases are rare and no definite link has been established between the shots and the virus that causes shingles.

— Karena Phan