Conspiracy theories swirl in China that monkeypox was deliberately leaked by the US
Chinese social media users say the US could be the source of the surge in monkeypox cases, with conspiracy theories claiming the US deliberately leaked the virus which has now spread to at least a dozen countries.
A hashtag in the US reporting two cases of monkeypox has attracted more than 51 million views on Weibo as of Monday.
The infectious disease became a trending topic on the platform after cases were found in the UK, Spain and Australia.
Chinese state media has accused the United States of intentionally spreading Covid-19, which originated in China, but has so far refrained from taking the same approach with monkeypox.
Chinese social media users have latched on to a report by an NGO that modeled a fictitious scenario for a monkeypox outbreak as proof that the US deliberately spread the virus.
Speculation on social networks focuses on a 2021 report on biosafety preparedness planning by an American non-governmental organization, known as the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).
The report outlines a hypothetical scenario for a monkeypox outbreak that has been taken out of context by Chinese social media users to suggest the US knew about the pandemic in advance.
The NTI was created by Ted Turner, an American philanthropist who also used his wealth to create the United Nations Foundation, along with Democratic politician Sam Nunn.
The organization models responses to weapons of mass destruction, focusing on nuclear, cyber, biological, radiological, and chemical attacks.
Weibo influencer Shu Chang, who has 6.41 million followers, said the report constituted “a US plan to leak bioengineered monkeypox virus.”
Many Weibo users seemed to agree with her, with more than 7,500 users liking the post, according to Bloomberg.
Monkeypox cases are shown in the US as of 05/23/2022. As of Friday, there were 80 confirmed cases of monkeypox worldwide, including at least two in the United States.
Following the Covid outbreak, the NTI partnered with the Munich Security Conference (MSC) to conduct a simulation exercise aimed at reducing biological threats.
The example they chose for the exercise was ‘an unusual strain of monkeypox virus’.
In the exercise, the two groups modeled the outbreak of the monkeypox strain in a fictional country called ‘Brynia’ that eventually spreads globally, measured over 18 months.
In the scenario, the initial outbreak was caused “by a terrorist attack using a pathogen engineered in a laboratory with inadequate biosafety and biosecurity provisions and weak oversight.”
At the end of the financial year, the fictional pandemic resulted in more than three billion cases and 270 million deaths worldwide.
The hypothetical scenario takes place on June 5, 2022, beginning with an outbreak in Brinia after a terrorist group from the neighboring country ‘Arnica’, which is also fictional, develops the virus illicitly.
The independent terrorist group Arnican, known as SPA, had worked with sympathetic laboratory scientists to engineer a highly contagious and deadly pathogen.
Around 21 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the UK, with Boris Johnson saying he is “keeping an eye on” the virus but insisting it is not a “repeat of Covid”.
The terrorists disperse the virus in crowded train stations in Brinia, timing the attack to take place during a national holiday, allowing the virus to spread further.
Authorities report 1,421 cases and four deaths in the fictional country, which has a population of 250 million in the setting.
“Because monkeypox does not occur naturally in Brinia, local and international experts consider this outbreak to be unusual,” the NTI wrote.
“The Brinian government welcomes international outbreak investigations and requests medical support from the WHO.”
As the virus progresses, it spreads to another fictional country: the ‘Republic of Dranma’.
Dranma adopts strong restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, shutting down mass gatherings, enforcing social distancing measures and implementing mask mandates, similar to the strict lockdowns imposed by some nations during Covid-19 outbreaks.
The map shows confirmed cases of monkeypox, with 80 confirmed cases so far. The World Health Organization said Monday that it has no evidence that the monkeypox virus has mutated.
Another fictional country, called ‘Cardus’, keeps its economy open and downplays the virus and its potential impacts, experiencing much worse mortality rates as a result.
In the hypothetical version, researchers soon discover that the monkeypox strain is resistant to existing vaccines, including the smallpox vaccine, while scientists observing the actual spread of the virus believe that the smallpox vaccine will be effective.
The hypothetical version used in the report is also much more contagious than the wild strain of monkeypox, with a basic reproductive number of three used to model the ‘modified strain’ compared to the rate of 2.13 actually observed. In nature.
The strain had also been modified at the NTI stage, while the World Health Organization said Monday it has no evidence that the monkeypox virus has mutated.
As of Friday, there were 80 confirmed cases of monkeypox worldwide, including at least two in the United States.
NTI could not be reached with a request for comment before press time.