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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke May 23, 2022

A misused shingles photo fuels a conspiracy theory about monkeypox

If Your Time is short

  • A website misused a photo of a shingles rash in a story about monkeypox, but that doesn’t prove the monkeypox virus is a hoax. 

The recent outbreak of monkeypox cases in countries where it’s not typically found has left some people spooked and others skeptical. 

One Facebook post is leading some commenters to cast doubt on the virus altogether. 

The May 21 post shows three images:

  • A screenshot of a headline about shingles with a photo of a hand with lesions on it

  • A screenshot of a headline about monkeypox with the same photo of a hand

  • A screenshot of the date the monkeypox story was published: July 17, 2021

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The photo of a hand with lesions shows a rash caused by shingles. The headline about shingles that appeared with it in the Facebook post comes from the website of the Department of Health in Queensland, Australia. The image was used to illustrate what shingles looks like.

It appears this same image previously was wrongly used by an Indian website called The Health Site to illustrate what monkeypox lesions look like. 

Featured Fact-check

We found the headline about monkeypox that appears in the Facebook post on that website. However, when we visited the site on May 23, the photo of the hand was not there — instead, there was a different photo described as showing monkeypox. The website doesn’t say when the story was published but indicates it was "updated" May 23, 2022.

With a little more digging, we found evidence this story first appeared on The Health Site in 2021 and was updated to remove the shingles photo that apparently was wrongly described as showing a monkeypox infection. 

We found the same story published on another site with the shingles photo and the same date that appears in the Facebook screenshot: July 17, 2021. The photo has since been removed from this site, too.

The story cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which on July 16, 2021 announced it had confirmed a case of monkeypox in a U.S. resident who had recently traveled from Nigeria to Dallas. 

We looked for other instances of news organizations using the image of the person with shingles to illustrate monkeypox and found no credible outlets making what appears to have been a mistake on The Health Site. 

Reverse image searches on Google and TinEye turned up no results, though the picture has been used before in the proper context: to show what shingles looks like. 

The 2021 case in the Facebook screenshot predates the current outbreak. 

Misinformation about monkeypox has been spreading since May 13, when the World Health Organization reported the first cases of monkeypox in countries where the virus is not usually found, including the United States. As of May 21, 92 cases had been confirmed in 12 countries non-endemic to monkeypox, with between one and five cases found in the U.S. Investigations into the origin of these outbreaks are ongoing. 

The misused photo in the Facebook post doesn’t prove that monkeypox is a hoax. We rate claims that it does False. 

Our Sources

Facebook post, May 21, 2022

World Health Organization, Multi-country monkeypox outbreak in non-endemic countries, May 21, 2022

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC and Texas Confirm Monkeypox In U.S. Traveler, July 16, 2021

247 News Around The World, ​​Rare Monkeypox Cases Reported from US, First Time In Nearly 20 Years: All You Need To Know About It, July 17, 2021

The Health Site, Rare Monkeypox Cases Reported from US, First Time In Nearly 20 Years: All You Need To Know About It, updated, May 23, 2022

Queensland Health, What is shingles? (with pictures), visited May 23, 2022


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A misused shingles photo fuels a conspiracy theory about monkeypox

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