Can Monkeypox Survive On Surfaces?

Can Monkeypox Survive On Surfaces?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently investigated household surfaces in the home of two people infected with monkeypox. Using PCR testing, the CDC found that over 70% of the surfaces were contaminated. Similarly, researchers from a separate study detected high concentrations of monkeypox on surfaces in infected patients’ rooms. Do these contaminated surfaces increase the risk of transmission?

According to the CDC, monkeypox can survive on surfaces for 15 days. The monkeypox virus is a DNA-based virus and you can kill it with various household disinfectants, UV light, and the like. This is the case with most viruses, and just because monkeypox may exist on a surface for a long time, it doesn’t mean that it can infect another person. In fact, the CDC noted that the virus on those contaminated household items was not able to be cultured. 

Investigators Look At Household Surfaces

Referring to the investigation in the first paragraph, two infected individuals lived together, isolating together for 20 days. Both individuals experienced fatigue and body aches eight days after symptom onset. Only after this 20-day period did investigators perform real-time PCR-confirmed tests of common household items. 

Out of the 30 collected specimens, 21 tested positive for monkeypox. These positive tests came from cloth furniture, blankets, and other porous items. No specimen contained live virus, though. Because of the inability to detect viable viruses, this means that virus viability may decay over time or through chemical/environmental inactivation. 

Hospital Patient Study

For this study, researchers swabbed the surfaces of rooms being used by two hospitalized monkeypox patients in Germany. Bathrooms and adjacent rooms where workers changed out of personal protective equipment (PPE) were also swabbed. Researchers noted that highest viral loads came from surfaces that the infected patients touched directly. These were primarily from the bathrooms, particularly on the toilet seats, levers, and washbasins. Chairs in the patients’ rooms and the fabrics in their rooms (towels, shirts, and pillowcases) contained the virus as well. Researchers also detected the virus on handles of cabinets and major contact points in the rooms where staff changed out of PPE.

Do Contaminated Surfaces Increase The Risk Of Viral Transmission?

The current data on this matter makes it difficult to answer this question with certainty. As of right now, the findings are still unclear about increased viral transmission from contaminated surfaces. That said, it is cause for concern and infected patients should increase cleaning within their households. Additionally, limit contact to communal spaces for at least three to four weeks that people are infectious. 

Similar to the CDC investigation, the German study stated that, although unlikely, infection could potentially occur from coming in contact with contaminated surfaces. Touching these surfaces and then touching mucous membranes could result in transmission. The researchers found no evidence of secondary transmission from contaminated surfaces in the study, though. The primary takeaway from that German study is that, despite high contamination of monkeypox on the surfaces, research did not indicate that infection could occur. 

Does This Information Change How We Approach Monkeypox?

The current research doesn’t change anything regarding the current monkeypox outbreak. It does, however, show that monkeypox can contaminate surfaces in the homes of infected people. Whether or not this leads to infections is still a matter of debate. This is because the virus has to be viable or alive to transmit, and in sufficient quantity to cause infection. As of now, the transmission rate between household members is still below 10% if those household members are not in direct contact with each other. 

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