Can monkeypox be spread in swimming pools and gyms?

This article is not intended as medical advice. If you have any questions about monkeypox, ask your doctor or local health professionals.

On Thursday afternoon, the United States government declared a public health emergency due to the spread of the monkeypox virus in the United States. The organization further reported 26,519 cases worldwide in 81 countries that had no history of monkeypox.

As of August 2, no deaths from monkeypox have been reported in the United States, and 9 people have died worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that modern monkeypox has a fatality rate of about 3% to 6%, with different variants of the virus causing severe symptoms. The disease is more serious in immunocompromised people and children.

The European Centers for Disease Control (ECDC) says monkeypox infection usually begins with a combination of the following symptoms: fever, headache, chills, fatigue, asthenia, swollen lymph nodes, back pain and muscle aches.

Scientists are worried because the disease is playing out differently than in the past, where outbreaks often stem from outbreaks within animal populations.

While the spread of the virus has yet to reach the levels we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, the specter of the coronavirus and the early closure of sporting events like swimming lingers in the minds of many Americans.

Monkeypox is endemic in several African countries, but its rapid spread in North America and other countries without high vaccination rates is a cause for concern. Unlike COVID-19, which is primarily spread by respiratory droplets, monkeypox is primarily spread through close contact with an infected person.

Although the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) state that monkeypox can be spread through the respiratory tract, it is most commonly spread by direct contact with rashes or sores on the body of an infected person or on infected materials. contact with bodily fluids or wounds, such as clothing or bedding.

Theoretical spread through respiratory droplets requires close face-to-face contact, the CDC says. This spread requires “prolonged face-to-face contact” like kissing.

Monkeypox “is not known to persist in the air for long periods of time and is not transmissible in the short term in general airspace,” which is different from COVID-19.

Research on the prevalence of other smallpox viruses, such as molluscum contagiosumhave shown an increase in the spread in swimming pools, the CDC says, but scientists haven’t found evidence of how or under what circumstances the spread may increase.

Anyone who suspects an infection should see a doctor immediately to prevent the spread of the virus.

So what are the risks of swimming and other sports?

In the swimming pool

Experts say that because the monkeypox virus does not travel through water, it is unlikely to spread in a swimming pool (or hot tub), especially one with well-maintained chlorine levels.

Current researchers say that because there is very little person-to-person contact in swimming and it does not last long enough to spread the virus, the risk of transmission in the practice of swimming is low.

Scientists have warned against sharing towels or poolside clothing, but the risk of spreading the virus is high.

While no specific studies have been done on the spread of monkeypox through swimming pools or hot tubs, based on the nature of the virus, scientists have concluded that it is “unlikely” that it is spread through swimming pools.

in the gym

Dr. Jessica Jasman, an associate professor of medicine in epidemiology at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, said it is “unlikely” to get the virus at the gym, but it can be spread through bodily fluids such as sweat. There are several reasons for this, including that most gym equipment is not very porous, so it is easy to remove with proper cleaning techniques that have become standard in gyms to combat the spread of other diseases such as MRSA.

Cleansers and detergents are very effective against the monkeypox virus because it is an “enveloped virus,” that is, covered in an oily membrane. Detergents easily break down that oily film and destroy the virus.

More research is needed

Scientists are investigating whether the virus can be transmitted by an asymptomatic person or how often it is spread through respiratory or sexual contact.

Although there are modern vaccines specific to monkeypox, because the disease is related to smallpox, the smallpox vaccine is believed to offer some protection against monkeypox. Routine vaccination of the American public against smallpox was discontinued in 1972.

The latest information from the CDC can be read here.

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