Risk low from monkeypox contaminated surface spread

While the monkeypox virus can spread through touching contaminated surfaces, health officials say the current risk to the public is low.

Amid rising cases of monkeypox in the United States, the federal government has declared a public health emergency to help respond to the outbreak, which has infected more than 7,500 Americans as of August 5.

Online searches show many people are wondering how monkeypox is spread. Several VERIFY viewers, including Becki and Rob, have asked us if the virus can be transmitted by touching surfaces that have been in contact with a person who has monkeypox.

Click here to read more VERIFY reports on monkeypox

THE QUESTION

Can monkeypox spread by touching contaminated surfaces?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, monkeypox can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, but the current risk is low.

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WHAT WE FOUND

According to the CDC and the California Department of Health and Human Services, transmission of monkeypox occurs primarily through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact with people who have monkeypox symptoms such as a rash and sores. The virus can also be spread by touching objects, fabrics such as clothing, sheets or towels, and surfaces used by someone with monkeypox.

Many, if not all, cases have been reported in men who have sex with men. But the California Department of Health and Human Services says anyone can get monkeypox after having close physical contact with someone who has the infection, “particularly contact with infected lesions, bodily fluids, or other contaminated surfaces.” However, the health agency says that “the current risk of contracting monkeypox in the general public is very low.”

“The risk of getting infected through a surface is pretty small – it’s not zero, but it’s small. The risk of fleeting contact or a brief touch of something is unlikely to result in enough virus on that surface to infect you if you are exposed,” says Scott Roberts, MD, assistant professor of infectious diseases at the Yale School of Medicine. said VERIFY.

RELATED: VERIFY Fact Sheet: Monkeypox Outbreak

Like monkeypox, orthopoxviruses can survive in bedding, clothing, and surfaces, especially in dark, cool, low-humidity environments. According to Roberts, studies are currently underway into how long they can survive on surfaces where they are still viable and can infect someone. But he and the CDC both say these viruses are sensitive to many disinfectants.

“This virus is easy to kill, so common disinfectants that we use, like alcohol wipes or Lysol wipes, kill the monkeypox virus very easily,” Roberts said.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a list of disinfectants on its website that can kill the monkeypox virus on surfaces. This list includes regular household cleaners that contain bleach, alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide.

The CDC says a person with monkeypox can transmit it to others from the onset of symptoms until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness usually lasts two to four weeks.

RELATED: Yes, smallpox vaccines offer protection against monkeypox

According to the CDC, there are ways to protect yourself from monkeypox, including the following:

  • Avoid close skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox (may appear like pimples or blisters and be painful or itchy).

    • Do not touch the rash or scabs on a person with monkeypox.

    • Don’t kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sex with someone with monkeypox.

  • Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.

    • Do not share cutlery or cups with a person with monkeypox.

    • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after using the toilet.

“I recommend routine precautions for what I do myself every time I go out, which is washing hands before eating and washing hands after touching many contaminated surfaces, like at social events where you touch many of the same things,” Roberts said. “I don’t think we need to routinely Lysol or disinfect surfaces unless we find new data that suggests monkeypox can survive in the environment for weeks. I don’t think that’s the case, but of course as we find more data the recommendations will change.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Alley Einstein

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