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AFP Factcheck debunks photo of monkeypox case in Singapore, exposes fake picture

The Independent logo The Independent 22/5/2019 Anna Maria Romero

Singapore — A picture of a young black child has been circulating around Instagram and Facebook, purporting to be that of the recent monkey pox victim in Singapore. While a Nigerian man currently in the country was confirmed to have been diagnosed with the disease, the photo is actually one of a little girl who had been sick with monkey pox in the Congo, and was uploaded as early as 2010.

AFP Factcheck exposed the misleading photo in an article entitled, “This is not a photo of a Nigerian man diagnosed with monkeypox in Singapore in May 2019 – it’s an old image of a Nigerian child with the disease.”

The news agency did a reverse image search of the photo and discovered that it had been used in scientific journal articles about the disease nearly a decade ago.

The picture first appeared on the Instagram account @wowcreepy_id, with the following caption on the text: “For the first time in history, the monkey pox virus was found to attack people in Singapore.”

The account has more than 117,000 followers, and the alleged monkey pox photo in Singapore has been liked over 3,200 times.

The post has a lengthy caption in Indonesian from News24xx.com. The article can be found in English on the site and reports on the Nigerian monkey pox patient, who had been confirmed by the country’s Ministry of Health (MOH) to have the disease. He had attended a wedding prior to coming to Singapore in late April, where infected meat may have been served, thus causing him to contract the virus.

While the facts about the Nigerian man are true, the photo is deliberately misleading and is presented in a sensational way on Instagram. People commenting on the post seem to have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker, accepting the premise that it was indeed a photo of a person infected with monkey pox in Singapore.

Unfortunately, the photo was also shared in various languages in different platforms on social media. AFP Factcheck found that the photo was shared with the same context on Indonesian-language posts on Facebook, in a Chinese-language post on Instagram, as well as on Twitter, also in Indonesian-language posts, including News24XX’s feed on May 15, which is where @wowcreepy_id may have gotten it in the first place.

According to AFP Factcheck, “But the photo in the misleading posts has nothing to do with Singapore or Nigeria. It has circulated online since at least 2010 in reports about a child who contracted monkeypox in the Congo.”

AFP Factcheck found, upon doing a reverse search images, that the photo was published on September 14, 2010 in a PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States) journal article entitled “Major increase in human monkeypox incidence 30 years after smallpox vaccination campaigns cease in the Democratic Republic of Congo”.

The caption on the photo reads, “Typical clinical presentation of human monkeypox in a 7-y-old female child, Sankuru District, Democratic Republic of Congo.”

The same photo can also be seen on a journal article on smallpox viruses on Science Direct, dated 2011, as well as a Voice of America article from 2010.

Monkey pox can be fatal in rare cases and does not easily spread from one person to another. Nevertheless, the MOH issued a statement earlier this month saying that it was taking precautions.

The Ministry added that 23 people had been identified as having had close contact in Singapore with the infected man, who had eaten bush meat before coming to the country.

Those infected with monkey pox can suffer from it for 2 to 4 weeks, starting from a headache and fever and then manifesting as small bumps called pustules all over the body, as can be seen from the 2010 photo of the child from the Congo.

Bush meat, a staple of certain African diets, can consist of meat from chimpanzees, gorillas, antelopes, birds or rodents.

The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that monkey pox infections have only been thus far documented thrice outside of Africa, the US, UK, and Israel. / TISG

Read related: Monkeypox: MOH confirms 1 case in Singapore, patient in isolation ward

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