Since early May, there have been hundreds of monkeypox cases reported across the world. The first reported case in the U.S. was recorded on May 18, when a man from Massachusetts tested positive.
Monkeypox is typically found in Africa, and rare cases in the U.S. and elsewhere are usually linked to travel there. Monkeypox primarily occurs in central and west Africa, often in proximity to tropical rainforests, where animals contract the virus and then transmit it to humans.
Because the virus is so rare, some online users have questioned how it’s transmitted and if there could be a connection to other viruses, like the ones that cause shingles and COVID-19. Others have asked if the COVID-19 vaccine could have actually caused the monkeypox outbreak.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause monkeypox?
- Tom Yadegar, MD, medical director of the intensive care unit at Providence Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
- Ilhem Messaoudi, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Kentucky
- World Health Organization
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
No, the COVID-19 vaccine can’t cause monkeypox. Monkeypox can’t be transmitted through any vaccine. It can only be spread through direct contact with an infected person or animal.
WHAT WE FOUND
Chickenpox and shingles are members of the herpes virus family, and monkeypox and smallpox are orthopoxviruses. The vaccine that protects against COVID-19 does not contain any live viruses and has no connection whatsoever to herpes viruses or orthopoxviruses, Ilhem Messaoudi, Ph.D, told VERIFY.
There are rare cases when the COVID-19 vaccine could trigger a shingles flare-up in people who were previously infected with chickenpox, Tom Yadegar, MD, told VERIFY. Shingles causes a painful, burning rash, along with other symptoms, due to the reactivation of the chickenpox virus.
“It's just a fact that when you get a vaccine, your immune system can get weakened a little bit. And that can cause the shingles to present itself. For a monkeypox, it's not something that's living in any of us. It needs to be transmitted to us,” Yadegar said.
Monkeypox is only transmitted when a person comes into contact with the virus from an animal, human, or materials that are contaminated with the virus, according to the CDC.
The monkeypox virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), the respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth).
Animal-to-human contact can occur if an infected animal bites or scratches a person. Human-to-human transmission primarily occurs through close physical contact with bodily fluids, respiratory droplets, skin lesions or recently contaminated objects, the CDC and the World Health Organization say.
Most patients that become infected with monkeypox experience fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes, according to the WHO. The rash tends to stay concentrated on the face and extremities but can spread across the body in more severe cases.