Mpox – A retrospective


Annie Eason

A Robinson school desk with an overlay of a photo of mpox viruses. Edited.

On May 6, 2022, the world was reintroduced to mpox, also known as monkeypox, when a British citizen was infected with the virus when he traveled to Nigeria. According to the Cleveland Clinic, in 1958, mpox was discovered when two outbreaks of the disease occurred in monkeys being used in a research project. Scientists identified the virus to be a part of the family orthopoxvirus, the same family that the smallpox virus is in. Mpox is a rare virus originally confined to Africa, but in 2022, outbreaks of the virus occurred all over the world.  But now, in 2023, New York City, the city with one of the highest numbers of mpox cases, declared the end of the outbreak on Feb. 1, 2023.

Mpox peaked on Aug. 12, 2022 with 1,075 cases worldwide and a total of 85,860 cases between the dates of May 1, 2022 and Feb. 13, 2022 according to the World Health Organization. As of Feb. 13, 2023, there’s only 33 cases of mpox worldwide and six cases in America. According to the Mayo Clinic, mpox spreads to person to person through direct contact with infected rashes, scabs, or body fluids, 4 or more hours of close contact with an infected person, touching things that have been in contact with an infected person’s rashes or bodily fluids, or an infected pregnant person giving it to a fetus. Mpox also spreads from animal to human via animal bites or scratches, infected wild game, products made of infected animals, and direct contact with the body fluids or rashes with infected animals. But mpox is mainly spread through sexual contact.

While mpox is a dangerous disease, it is even more dangerous for those with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). According to the CDC, people with advanced HIV are at risk of severe mpox or death if they are infected. Some symptoms of mpox are rashes that look like chickenpox but take much longer to heal, lasting two to four weeks. Headaches, fevers, chills, muscle aches, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes are also some signs of mpox, according to the Cleveland Clinic

Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York, had the highest number of mpox cases in America, while according to the Virginia Health Department, Fairfax County only reported 92 cases of mpox. According to, NYC had a total of 3,821 cases. According to the California Department of Public Health, Los Angeles had 2,281 cases; statewide, California had 5,733 cases. But as of Feb. 13, 2023, only 33 people in America have mpox. In contrast, there were 34,630 reported Covid cases on Feb. 21, 2023, according to Our World in Data. So how did mpox end so quickly compared to Covid? 

One of the many reasons why mpox “ended” earlier was the change in behavior in those who were at risk of mpox. According to an AMIS August 2022 survey of men who have sex with men, 48% of men reduced their number of sex partners, 50% reduced one-time sexual encounters and 50% reduced sex with partners met on dating apps or at venues. Mpox peaked in August but cases dramatically decreased in early September. The vaccine also helped numbers too, as men who had two doses of the Jynneos vaccine were 69% less likely to have a severe mpox infection and men who had only one dose were 37% less likely to have a severe mpox infection, according to CNN Health. On March 9th, 2023 according to the CDC, has 170,576 cases with a total of 1,119,762 deaths. This is because a lot of people didn’t take the Covid pandemic seriously, as a summer 2020 Gallup poll found that 29% of Americans didn’t wear their masks often, with 14% of people saying they never wore their masks. While compared to January 2022, Covid cases weren’t as high, at the time, people perceived it as a spike in cases, as according to Gallup, “With cases nationwide continuing to spike, many public health officials and politicians are imploring Americans to wear masks. Notably, a number of states recently began to mandate the use of masks when in public. Yet, it may fall on deaf ears for some Americans who are resistant to using them.” Compared to mpox, where many at-risk individuals changed  their behavior to avoid the virus, many people did not change their behavior to prevent the transmission of Covid. With the lack of behavior changes and with Covid being more easily transmissible than mpox, it makes sense that mpox ended earlier than Covid. 

How do Robinson students feel about mpox? One anonymous sophomore said, “I thought it was fake because a lot of things on TikTok are fake- I don’t have TikTok, but you see TikTok videos in other places and I thought it was fake. So I searched it up and I still don’t know if it’s fake or not.” They also said, “I really hope that there’s not the same response there was with Covid though because that was stupid.” An anonymous junior said “I was kind of shocked, probably because we just had the, Covid stuff in 2020, right? And I was like, ‘oh not another [outbreak].’” That student had a relative who’d gotten mpox. “I think it was one of my younger cousins that had gotten it and, from what I know, they had to stay in the hospital for a few months or maybe a few weeks to get recover[ed]. [We] used to talk a lot, so it was a bit sad that they had gotten it. They’re better now.” About the general response from the public, an anonymous substitute teacher said, “It seems like it is- like AIDS- it’s in a community that’s fairly restricted and so that community needs outreach, but it doesn’t seem like it’s a particularly big issue for the general population.” 

The AIDS epidemic also comes to mind when thinking about mpox. AIDS is the last stage of HIV. HIV, according to, is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infections, which is where the I in HIV comes from- making a person immunodeficient. AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is when the body is severely damaged due to the HIV virus and is considered to have it when the number of CD4 cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells/mm3). A healthy immune system has CD4 cells between 500 and 1,600 cells per mm3. CD4 cells are white blood cells and are also called helper T-cells as they trigger the immune system to fight viruses and things of the sort that are harmful, according to The immune system protects the body from harmful substances such as fungi and is a network of antibodies (proteins), chemicals, white blood cells and organs, including the lymph nodes, according to the Cleveland clinic. 

Going back to the AIDS epidemic, the CDC first reported AIDS on June 5th, 1981, when five young, healthy gay men in Los Angeles had pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (a rare lung infection), other unusual infections, and an unhealthy immune system. Two of the five men died by the time the report was published. Later, after more men were infected with AIDS, on Aug. 11 in the same year, Larry Kramer hosted a meeting in his NYC apartment with over 80 gay men to discuss AIDS and invited Dr. Friedman-Kien to speak at the meeting. Dr. Friedman-Kien asked for support for researching AIDS and only received $6,635 to fight AIDS.In Congress on Sept. 24, 1982, Rep Phillip Burton and Rep. Ted Weiss introduced the first piece of legislation to fund AIDS research but it died in committee. By this time, tens of thousands of people might’ve already been affected by this disease. Congress allocated 190 million dollars for AIDS research three years later. In January 1986, there was an 89% increase in AIDS cases compared to 1984 rates. This information was gathered from In the 1980s, Haitians were also blamed for HIV, as were hemophiliacs, heroin users and LGBTQ+ people, according to an article in the Journal of the International Aids Society.

AIDS and HIV then had a lot of stigma surrounding it and to some extent still does today. Ryan White, a 16-year-old, spoke at the president’s AIDS commission on March 4, 1988 and said that he faced severe bullying at school due to AIDS stigma. Among other instances, Ryan said his items were marked with anti LGBTQ+ slurs. Ryan also said that when he went to church, people would not shake his hand, according to UPI. HIV stigma consists of the belief that only certain people can get HIV, believing people deserve HIV due to their choices and making moral judgements about people who try to prevent HIV, according to the CDC. According to a Nov. 2003 ACLU report, a Texas employer asked an employee to get tested for HIV because the employee was gay and sick. In Miami, most AIDS service providers (CBOs) report that their clients are afraid of discrimination at their workplace. After other people found out that several individuals from Texas had gotten HIV, their homes were vandalized and they received hate mail. A CBO helped these people leave their homes. A CBO also reported that in Florida, clients refuse to pick up medication for HIV because they fear that someone will see them. Many other cases of HIV stigma still persist. This could be because according to the CDC, men who have sex with men and those who use injection drugs are most severely affected by HIV. LGBTQ+ people faced and still continue to face discrimination and hatred daily as according to the UCLA School of Law, LGBTQ+ people are nine times more likely to face violent hate crimes than their non-LGBTQ+ peers just recently in 2017-2019. Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ people are still discriminated against by society as according to the Human Rights Campaign, 340 anti-LGBTQ+ bills had already been made in America in 2023 (as of Feb. 15, 2023).

So why is this relevant? Mpox commonly affects men who have sex with men, but anyone who has been in close contact with an infected person can get it. Mpox also came from Africa; because of this, the World Health Organization renamed monkeypox to mpox as they recommend that diseases should not be named after places or animals to reduce stigma. UNAIDS – the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS – warned against reporting that would “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma,” due to what happened with the 1980s AIDS crisis. UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Matthew Kavanagh said, “Experience shows that stigmatizing rhetoric can quickly disable evidence-based response by stoking cycles of fear, driving people away from health services, impeding efforts to identify cases, and encouraging ineffective, punitive measures.” But mpox was still stigmatized, as on March, 13, 2023, Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene released a t-shirt that had three monkey emojis, one with their eyes covered, one with their ears covered and one with their mouth covered. On the T-shirt, it also said “See no monkeypox, hear no monkeypox, speak no monkeypox.” Additionally, on July, 26 2022, Greene said, “Of course, monkeypox is a threat to some people in our population. But we know what causes it…it’s basically a sexually transmitted disease. So it’s not a threat to most of the population.” According to LGBTQ Nation, she also said, “People just have to laugh at it, mock it, and reject it. It’s another scam.”

While the response to mpox was much better than the response to AIDS, mpox is still stigmatized. Mpox isn’t prevalent in today’s society anymore, but stigma regarding mpox and AIDS and diseases of the sort should still be questioned and fought against in order to reduce discrimination against those who are affected by these diseases.