Dispelling Misinformation About Monkeypox

On May 7, 2022, an unidentified individual in the United Kingdom was diagnosed with the monkeypox virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus.” The monkeypox virus is a cousin of the smallpox virus.

Health officials in the U.K. said that the unidentified person traveled to Nigeria, where hundreds of monkeypox cases have occurred since April 2019.

From May 7, 2022, to the time of writing this brief, 92 other cases of monkeypox have been confirmed globally. On May 22, 2022, President Joe Biden said of monkeypox, “They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet, but it is something that everybody should be concerned about.”

For this brief, we conducted further research into monkeypox, its recent spread outside of the African continent, and identified misinformation narratives about the disease.


Monkeypox was first identified in laboratory primates in 1958. However, the disease is also found in a variety of rodents. The first human case of monkeypox was diagnosed in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. From 1970 to 1979, 47 other disease cases were reported in West and Central Africa. A 1980 Abstract from the Bulletin of the World Health Organization claims that monkeypox mostly infected children with a fatality rate of 17%. However, health officials currently report that monkeypox has a fatality rate anywhere from 3-6% in severe cases.

In 2003, there was a multistate outbreak of monkeypox, impacting Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Ohio. Per the CDC, the source of the outbreak was pet prairie dogs. The prairie dogs had come from animal distributors in Texas and Illinois. Open-source research suggests that none of the 2003 cases resulted in fatalities.

In 2021, health officials documented two cases of the monkeypox virus from U.S. citizens in Texas and Maryland. Both U.S. citizens had traveled to Nigeria before contracting the virus.

The Cleveland Clinic describes monkeypox as “a rare disease similar to smallpox caused by the monkeypox virus. It’s found mostly in areas of Africa but has been seen in other areas of the world. Monkeypox causes flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, and a rash develops within a few days. There’s no proven treatment for monkeypox, but it usually goes away on its own.”

Where Has It Spread  

There are confirmed cases of monkeypox in the U.S., Australia, Switzerland, the U.K., Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Israel, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Greece, and Germany. Currently, there are no recorded fatalities. Many people diagnosed with the virus are either hospitalized or isolated.

Thus far, Belgium has implemented mandatory quarantines for monkeypox patients. Those who contract monkeypox in Belgium are required to quarantine for 21 days. Additionally, U.K. health officials require a 21-day quarantine for high-risk monkeypox cases.

In an interview with CNBC, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said of the spread of the virus outside of Africa. “Now that there’s been community spread, it may be hard to fully snub this out. I don’t think it’s going to become a major epidemic because this is a virus that’s difficult to spread.”

There are two confirmed cases of monkeypox in the U.S., one in New York state and the other in Massachusetts. In addition, there is a suspected monkeypox case in Florida and a second in New York state.

NBC News reported that monkeypox might have spread from raves in Europe. “In an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. David Heymann, who formerly headed WHO’s emergencies department, said the leading theory to explain the spread of the disease was sexual transmission among gay and bisexual men at two raves held in Spain and Belgium. Monkeypox has not previously triggered widespread outbreaks beyond Africa, where it is endemic in animals.”

Misinformation about Monkeypox

As of the writing of this brief, there are 8,950 tweets an hour about monkeypox. Many of those tweets include misinformation narratives about the virus.

Some tweets claim that tech tycoon Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci are behind monkeypox.

Other tweets suggest that a 2021 tabletop exercise focused on monkeypox from the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a non-profit organization aimed at preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction and stopping other catastrophic attacks, means it was a planned outbreak.

While the NTI did partner with the Munich Security Conference to simulate what would happen if a monkeypox terrorist attack occurred, such exercises from NIT are quite common.

In 2022, the NTI and Munich Security Conference created a scenario with a fictional bioweapons attack. The NTI wrote of the scenario, “The exercise scenario involved a localized bioweapons attack against cattle in the fictional country of Andoriban with a genetically engineered strain of the Akhmeta virus. While the attack was intended to cause targeted economic damage, the virus quickly spills over into humans and continues to spread, rapidly evolving into a global pandemic.”

In 2020, the NTI partnered with the Munich Security Conference for a tabletop exercise regarding a “human-engineered” pathogen and an accidental release of the pathogen from a bio laboratory.

In 2019, the NTI partnered with Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health Science and Security and the Center for Global Development to determine how coordinated Command and Control might be used in a rapidly spreading biological event.

The NTI theory is also spreading on the Russian social media website VK.

Analysts note that tabletop exercises, where simulated outbreaks occur, frequently happen in the field of epidemiology and biological threat research. The following screenshots are from tabletop exercises about Ebola, SARS, and smallpox.

We did not identify any disinformation from hostile actors like the People’s Republic of China or the Russian Federation.


Our research suggests that very soon, there will likely be more confirmed monkeypox cases in the U.S. and globally. The more documented cases of the virus, the higher the likelihood of mandatory quarantines like in Belgium or other government policies to mitigate the spread of the disease. Any stricter measures will likely be followed by significant resistance, with in-person protests as we have seen with COVID-19 mandates.

While there is no official monkeypox vaccine, the smallpox vaccine is 85% effective against the virus. Should the virus become a pandemic in the U.S., the government and pharmaceutical companies would work together for a vaccine supply against the disease, offering doses to the population, likely similar to the vaccine rollout with COVID-19.

If monkeypox spreads to countries like China or Russia, they could spread disinformation about the U.S and Europe being responsible for the virus, as was done with COVID-19. Further, as China continues to deal with coronavirus outbreaks, a large spread of monkeypox cases could potentially result in more lockdowns inside the country and supply chain disruptions.

Unveiling Evan Neumann: One of The Most Wanted Capitol Rioters and His Peculiar Ties to Russia

Photo Credit: TapTheForwardAssist, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On November 20, 2021, RT, (Russian-state media) interviewed Capitol Rioter Evan Neumann. Neumann, 49, is facing fourteen criminal counts for his involvement on January 6, 2021, in the Capitol Riots, the most severe among them — assaulting a police officer, engaging in physical violence on restricted grounds, and obstruction of law enforcement. [1]  

While most individuals who were arrested for their actions on January 6, 2021, remained in the U.S., Neumann instead fled to Eastern Europe. Mr. Neumann gave his interview to RT [2] while in Belarus, a dictatorship in Eastern Europe that does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. Mr. Neumann also interviewed with Belarusian-state TV and shared more details about being on the run. 

According to Neumann, he “traveled by train to Switzerland, boarded a car and left for Germany, then Poland, and by March 13, he was in Zhytomyr, Ukraine.” However, Mr. Neumann’s time in Ukraine was short-lived, claiming he spotted surveillance from the SBU (Ukrainian Intelligence), and from there, he decided to leave Ukraine for Belarus. 

Considering Mr. Neumann’s unusual behavior following the Capitol Riots and appearance on Russian and Belarusian state media, our analysts chose to investigate him further. The purpose of our investigation was to see if Mr. Neumann had any possible connections to Russia and, if possible, gather more information about his actions and motives on January 6, 2021. 

Investigative research on Mr. Neumann determined that he does have business interests in Russia and Ukraine. Additionally, several years before the riots, he openly considered how he would illegally hide his money if he were to find himself in a situation where his finances were under threat. 

According to public records, Mr. Neumann started multiple businesses in the past, with only one currently active. The company, Aslaen Vaugn, makes custom high-end handbags. [3] Research into Aslaen Vaugn shows that their handbags appeared at a fashion show in Moscow at the Wheel of Time Restaurant on September 14, 2020. [4] Anastasia, a New York-based fashion magazine, sponsored the event. High-profile Russian military officers and recipients of the Hero of the Russian Federation – Major General Sergei Anatolyevich Lipovoi and Andrey Nikolaevich Zvyagintsev, were at the event.  

The CEO of Anastasia is Ksenia Bychenkova, a California-based model. According to Mr. Neumann’s Venmo history, he paid Ms. Bychenkova for “social media services.” Ms. Bychenkova goes by the alias, Anastasia Xena, on her Instagram profiles. [5] Analysts could not determine anything further about the relationship between Mr. Neumann and Ms. Bychenkova or her possible connections to Russian military officers.

Our investigative team also discovered that Mr. Neumann’s handbags are sold in-store in Ukraine called One Shot. [6] On November 3, 2021, One Shot posted a photo of an Aslaen Vaugn handbag. However, the shop in Ukraine is not listed as one of the retail locations for Aslaen Vaugn products on its company website. [7]

Mr. Neumann’s history with Eastern Europe goes back even further. According to open-source research, Mr. Neumann lived in “Dresden, when it was still East Germany, Munich, Vorarlberg, Austria, Prague, Moscow, and Kyiv.” [8] Additionally, Mr. Neumann’s Etsy account details how he is a self-described “mad-scientist” who had informal tech training in Moscow in 1992. [9] 

Continuing research Mr. Neumann provided additional details about his interests/behaviors. In an interview with Designers [10], Mr. Neumann discusses how he likes to make bombs as a hobby. Further, in response to a 2015 online post from an unidentified person going through potential financial ruin, Mr. Neumann offers advice on how to cover his financial tracks. Under his alias, Jsalathe, Mr. Neumann commented, “Borrow against your properties and siphon that off too, but to cash, not a bank or investment account. You can start putting some in offshore accounts like the Cayman Islands or Switzerland. The problem here is that it is illegal and has the potential for prison if a trail is found. If you do this, take cash on the plane, no wire transfers.” [11] The comment from Mr. Neumann suggests a possible motive for his travels to Switzerland after fleeing to the United States.

Mr. Neumann’s actions at the U.S. Capitol are well-documented, with bodycam footage showing him beginning to harass police officers at 1:45 PM EST. At 1:55 PM EST, Mr. Neumann says, “I am willing to die, are you?” Soon after, Neumann uses the bike rack barricade line at the base of the West Front of the Capitol building as a weapon to push back against police, assaulting them. He is joined by other rioters who are then able to break the police line at or around 1:57 PM EST. While Neumann’s actions at the bike rack barricade led to others joining him to attack law enforcement, it remains unclear if he had any connections to the others who joined in on the assault.

Mr. Neumann is currently one of the FBI’s Most Wanted in relation to the Capitol Riots. In interviews with Russian and Belarusian media, Mr. Neumann says that Capitol rioters are “treated in Guantanamo-like conditions [12], that he doesn’t see why “Russia is an enemy,” and that he wanted to flee to a country that is “tough on the West.”

After the Capitol Riots, Mr. Neumann sold his California home, where he lived for several years. With the lower standard of living in a country like Belarus and other less-developed areas of Eastern Europe, Mr. Neumann may be using the money to support himself for an extended period of time.

In addition, Mr. Neumann went to great lengths to scrub his digital footprint. Our analysts identified his most significant posts from his online alias through reviewing archived and deleted data.


Overall, Mr. Neumann’s actions and behaviors warrant significant concern. While we couldn’t assess any other information about his history with Russia, his background of living in the country, business interests and Russian connections, pro-Russian attitudes, and tradecraft used to reach Belarus, could suggest more than criminal behavior with Mr. Neumann. Russian intelligence wouldn’t see Mr. Neumann as a high-level asset, but with his multiple appearances on Russian state media and long history in Eastern Europe, they could see him as a propaganda tool to push disinformation about the Capitol Riots and anti-American narratives.


[1] Case 1:21-mj-00331, United States of America V. Evan Neumann, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 3/23/2021, https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/case-multi-defendant/file/1411351/download

[2] From Capitol Riot to Belarus, YouTube, uploaded by RT, 20 November 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_ttH7XXJiM

[3] Open Corporates, Aslaen Vaugn, LLC, Registered Agent, Evan Neumann, https://opencorporates.com/companies/us_ca/201932310540

[4] Presentation of the New York Magazine about High Fashion, 14 September 2020, https://karachenkov.ru/press-tsentr/informatsionnye-stati/prezentatsiya-nyu-jorkskogo-zhurnala-o-vysokoj-mode/

[5] AnastasiaXena, Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/anastasiaxena/

[6] One_Shot_Resale_Shop_Instagram, 3 November 2021, https://www.instagram.com/p/CVzgAyrKG7S/

[7] Aslaen Vagun, Store Locator, https://aslaenvaugn.com/pages/store-locator

[8] A’Design Award and Competition, Designs Interview with Evan Neumann, https://competition.adesignaward.com/legends-interview.php?profile=262535

[9] Etsy, Jsalathe, https://www.etsy.com/people/jsalathe

[10] Designers, Interview with Evan Neumann, http://designers.org/profile.php?ID=262535

[11] Forums.red, Wife cheating – Is it Worth a Divorce?, https://www.forums.red/p/AskTRP/2201/wife_cheating_is_it_worth_a_divorce/222299

[12] An American who fled to Belarus spoke about the “home Guantanamo” in the USA, 13 November 2021, https://www.ntv.ru/novosti/2633422/