- A new report from the CDC reveals new findings about how monkeypox may be detected on common household surfaces.
- A team in Utah found that monkeypox was found on 70% of tested surfaces.
- However, that virus was not able to be cultured, meaning it may not be a risk of causing infection.
A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigation looked at household surfaces in the home of two people infected with monkeypox (MPV).
Using PCR testing, the agency found over 70% of surfaces that were tested were contaminated with the virus.
However, none of the detected virus was able to be cultured.
Investigators Looked At Common Household Surfaces
The Salt Lake County Health Department reported two real-time, PCR–confirmed, travel-associated cases of monkeypox to the Utah Department of Health and Human Services (UDHHS).
The two infected individuals lived together with no other housemates and had isolated at home for 20 days before sampling was conducted.
Both experienced symptoms such as fatigue and body aches, eight days after symptom onset.
The UDHHS swabbed objects in the patients’ home that they described as “high contact” surfaces.
The residents also described stringent home cleaning and disinfection activities they performed during their illness, and where they spent substantial amounts of time while they were ill.
Of 30 specimens, 21 (70 percent) tested positive, including those from porous items such as cloth furniture and blankets. None of the specimens contained live virus.
“The inability to detect viable virus suggests that virus viability might have decayed over time or through chemical or environmental inactivation,” wrote Jack A. Pfeiffer, Ph.D., Epidemic Intelligence Service at the CDC, along with other CDC co-authors.
Implications Of These Findings Are ‘Unclear’
Dr. Eric Cioè-Peña, director of global health for Northwell Health in New York told Healthline that the implication of these findings are “unclear.”
“But certainly [is] cause for concern and for increased cleaning among households where there is a positive case isolating,” he said.
Peña emphasized that it’s prudent to limit contact to communal spaces for the three to four weeks that people are infectious.
Peña doesn’t think this information means widespread surface disinfection is needed to control the outbreak.
“I don’t think this should translate to increased disinfection of public spaces because we haven’t seen monkeypox spread through casual contact,” he said. “Which indicates this is not sufficient virus, or live virus, to result in transmission.”
He added that it’s important that we distinguish between creating concern that doesn’t exist, “I could get monkeypox on the subway,” versus the actual concern, “My partner doesn’t need to have a noticeable rash, and intimate contact up to and including sex can transmit this virus.”
Does This Information Change How We Approach MPV?
Peña said he believes the findings don’t change anything regarding the current MPV outbreak.
“I think it shows that monkeypox virus contaminates surfaces in homes where people are sharing spaces,” he said. “Whether this can lead to infections is still up for debate.”
Peña said this is because the virus has to be “viable or alive” to transmit and in sufficient quantity to cause infection.
“The transmission rate between household members is still below 10% if those household members do not have intimate contact,” Peña noted.
How MPV Spreads
The CDC cautions that MPV spreads primarily through close, personal, “often skin-to-skin,” contact with the rash, scabs, lesions, body fluids, or respiratory secretions of an infected person.
They add that transmission is also possible through contaminated objects or surfaces.
Appropriate precautions to take if living with, or visiting the home of an infected person include wearing a well-fitting mask, and:
- Avoiding touching possibly contaminated surfaces
- Maintaining appropriate hand hygiene
- Avoid sharing eating utensils, clothing, bedding, or towels
- Follow home disinfection recommendations
The Bottom Line
A new CDC investigation finds that even with appropriate cleaning and surface disinfection, the monkeypox virus is still detectable on most surfaces. However, investigators also said the virus they detected was dead and unable to reproduce when cultured.
Experts say that this shouldn’t mean increased disinfection of public spaces because there isn’t yet evidence that the disease spreads through casual contact.
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