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Monkeypox Virus Contaminating and Surviving on Environmental Surfaces

The ongoing outbreak of monkeypox virus outside its endemic area of Central and Western Africa has naturally attracted the attention of virologists in order to better understand the mechanisms involved in the unusual spread of this virus. We know that human to human transmission is the main driver of infection but what role does the environment play in the spread of monkeypox virus?

A study published in June 2022 begins to address this question (Ref.). Researchers detected monkeypox virus from various inanimate surfaces in a hospital treating monkeypox patients. All surfaces touched by the patients showed viral contamination, the highest loads detected on bathroom levers, washbasins and toilet seats. Fabrics such as towels, shirts, or pillowcases that the patients used frequently also showed viral contamination. When the viral count was sufficiently high it was possible to grow monkeypox virus in the lab from swabs taken from surfaces.

Such data can’t prove the environment acts as a vector for monkeypox transmission. The study’s findings do, however, prompt the researchers to make this comment:

“Regular disinfection of frequent hand and skin contact points during the care processes additional to regular room cleaning and surface disinfection using products with at least virucidal activity against enveloped viruses can reduce infectious virus on surfaces and thereby risk of nosocomial transmission.”


Reference: “Evidence of surface contamination in hospital rooms occupied by patients infected with monkeypox, Germany, June 2022. Nörz, D., et al., Eurosurveillance. DOI: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2022.27.26.2200477

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