Fake headline about monkeypox spreads online

August 3, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: An Irish news site published a headline claiming, “Monkeypox can live on door handles and toilet seats for 120 years and can infect anyone from 5 miles away.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. No such headline was published. A post made to appear that it contained information from the site was fabricated and shared on social media.

THE FACTS: An image made to look like a post by TheJournal.ie in Ireland has been circulating on Twitter in recent days. In it, a far-fetched headline shown below the outlet’s logo appears as it would on a smartphone.

“Monkeypox can live on door handles and toilet seats for 120 years and can infect anyone from 5 miles away,” the text states. That information is followed by a quote that reads, “Without wishing to sound alarmist it’s certainly time to panic now,” attributed to “a UCD expert with a degree in Journalism but who once read a really good book on virology.”

While the tongue-in-cheek nature of the quote’s attribution indicates that the headline was intended as parody, and many Twitter users re-posted the image as a joke, others responded to it as if it was real. “Sounds about right,” wrote one user who shared the image. Another stated, “5 mile radius would decimate major cities. Monkey pox is scary.”

The headline and related quote shown in the image cannot be found on TheJournal.ie, including in a list of the site’s recent articles about monkeypox, nor were they found on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Google and DuckDuckGo searches for the headline and quote also failed to turn up such an article.

Stephen McDermott, an assistant news editor at TheJournal.ie, confirmed in an email to The Associated Press that the image is not real. “We have never published an article with that headline or information in it,” he wrote.

The image was posted Saturday on Twitter, the same day TheJournal.ie published an article titled, “Monkeypox declared global health emergency by World Health Organization.” This fabricated post contains the same image, image credit, and caption as the actual article.

Monkeypox can spread through skin-to-skin contact during sexual encounters, as well as through saliva and respiratory droplets during prolonged, face-to-face contact such as kissing or cuddling, the AP has reported. People may also contract the virus via items such as towels or bedding that have touched an infected person’s rash or body fluids.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.