Will we start to see observations of Monkeypox Virus?

There are currently no observations of Monkeypox Virus, although the taxon does exist on iNat. With cases making the news here in the US, and health officials saying that we are likely to see more cases, I start to wonder whether we will start to see observations here.

Of course, we would like the potential outbreak to stop; nobody with any moral sense would want a disease to spread just to be able to observe it. But given that we don’t know how soon it will be contained, the potential exists that it could infect an iNat user or someone connected to an iNat user. After all, there are currently 65 observations of SARS-CoV-2, from 54 observers, of which all but one are Research Grade.

I feel that if I were to get this disease – assuming I had enough presence of mind and was physically up to it – I would record it and upload it to iNat. Do you think we are likely to see observations of Monkeypox Virus if the outbreak is not contained soon?


I think you answered your own question. :slightly_smiling_face:


I’d bet we probably won’t get any observations considering we only have 65 observations of covid compared to the many millions of known cases of covid worldwide. It isn’t impossible though!


I hope we don’t. Perhaps it’s fun to post those things, but I don’t see the value.


In a way, I see your point, in that epidemiologists tracking the spread of a disease have much more reliable data sources than iNat observations. But on the other hand, I have often wondered if that is not also the case with the spread of invasive species or trafficking of wildlife, both of which have their proponents on iNat.

The day that I originally posted this, I searched for various “exotic” diseases on here, and, true to @malisaspring 's prediction, most have no observations.

I can think of a combination of factors that explain this.

  1. The people who live in the places such diseases frequent tend to be poor, and to lack access to the technology, infrastructure, and free time to be involved with iNat.
  2. Healthcare workers, local and international, are less likely to be interested in observing these pathogens as part of nature; their main focus is alleviating human suffering.
  3. Traveling naturalists, even if they travel to countries where these diseases are present, are more likely to frequent wildlife parks or field stations, not the human settlements where the diseases would be.

Even so, I was rather surprised by the lack of observations of some pathogenic taxa. Rickettsia – no observations, even though Rickettsia comprises not just typhus, but also Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which theoretically is in places where iNatters are likely to be. Flavivirus – no observations, even though there are many Flavivirus diseases; not just “exotic” ones like yellow fever and Zika, but also West Nile virus. West Nile virus should be fairly easy to observe: find a dead bird and wait for the positive test result to come back.

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Give them some time. I flagged Papillomaviridae in 2018 so Shope Papilloma Virus could be added, and the first observations for it didn’t show up until 2020.

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Agreed. If I or a family member were dealing with a disease, posting a picture of it to iNat would not be my first or even second thought.

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There is value in “fun” things. iNat’s stated primary purpose is to connect people with nature, and that should be enjoyable.

Fun is subjective, of course, but out of all the innocuous silly things people can post to iNat, I’ll take evidence of a microorganism over the umpteenth observation of a human.

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I would also suggest that people might not want their personal health info available so widely online. There’s probably a low probability of any nefarious use of that data, but given that the benefits might be unclear to a lot of people, I’m not surprised that few users choose to post their own infectious diseases.

Saying that, if I had something like a bot fly, I’d definitely be posting…

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