Can you catch monkeypox from gym equipment? Experts address the “unlikely” scenario.

Muscular sportsman taking weights on a rack in a gym.  The focus is on hand.

How worried should we be about contracting monkeypox through gym equipment? Experts explain. (Getty Pictures)

With cases of monkeypox still rising exponentially in the United States – up to 4,639 on July 27 from 2,891 on July 22, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and the World Health Organization declaring monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern”, more and more people are wondering how best to avoid contracting the virus.

One way, especially for gay or bisexual men, who currently make up 95% of those infected, is to temporarily limit their number of sexual partners, according to a new advisory this week from the WHO.

But monkeypox, while largely spread through close physical contact between humans, is not an STD (sexually transmitted disease) because it is not transmitted solely through sex. Anyone can get it, including children, because it is transmitted through bodily fluids – including sweat, saliva, through the placenta to the fetus, and through pus from skin lesions that accompany the virus – through prolonged face-to-face conversation, as well as across surfaces such as towels and sheets. The resulting symptoms usually include fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes, all of which can occur first or at the same time as the telltale rash or pustules.

A vaccine – the two-dose FDA-approved Jynneos – is available, albeit in limited supply, with no data on its effectiveness yet available for the current outbreak, according to the CDC.

But there is another area of ​​transmission concern, as noted recently at a Los Angeles LGBT Center monkey pox seminar: gyms, yoga studios and other group exercise spaces. , environments notorious for both sweat and shared surfaces, which the LGBT Center’s medical director of research and education, Dr. Robert Bolan, called “a pretty obvious likelihood” of the virus spreading.

“Monkeypox is a particularly hardy virus…and is known to be able to survive in bedding, clothing, and on environmental surfaces, especially in dark, cool conditions, for up to two weeks or even longer,” added Bolan. “So it’s really important, I think, to be careful with environmental surfaces like gym surfaces and, you know, exercise benches and mats – things that are completely porous…or partially porous” and to use disinfectant wipes or other household cleaners, which are effective when used correctly.

People line up outside at a sports center.

People are lining up to get their monkeypox shots in Los Angeles this week. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

What else do we know about monkeypox and gym equipment? Yahoo Life spoke to experts for more details.

Gyms are possible but ‘unlikely’ transmission routes

Dr Jessica Justman, associate professor of medicine in epidemiology at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, says it’s “unlikely” for a variety of reasons, including that gym equipment, unlike linens, is not “not very porous”, meaning it’s easier to wipe away the virus – something that’s happening “now more than ever”, due to COVID-19 protocols likely in place.

Importantly, says Justman, the monkeypox virus is an “enveloped virus,” meaning that “each virus particle is covered by an oily membrane, which is easily disrupted by detergents and other agents. cleaning. Without an envelope, the virus is no more contagious.”

Further adding to the low risk factor here, she explains, is that the most infectious areas for this virus are the sores, or pustular lesions, “which tend to be in the genital area.” So, for transmission of such a wound to take place via a gym mat, for example, “a person with monkeypox would first train on a mat while wearing clothes that do not cover the wounds. That person wouldn’t wipe the mat when Finally, a second person was practicing on the mat wearing minimal clothing in order to have direct contact with the mat.”

Justman adds, “It’s very difficult to imagine this complex scenario.”

A recent NBC News Chicago classified risk assessment of monkeypox that has already been turned into a widely distributed chart, quoting Chicago Department of Public Health officials and calling gym equipment (along with public restrooms) ” highly unlikely,” and noting that “no such cases have been reported so far.”

Still, vigilant cleaning is vital

Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government biodefense program at George Mason University, points to the robustness of the monkeypox virus. “Currently we know it can live on surfaces for up to 15 days, and other orthopoxviruses can survive for longer periods, up to months. The problem we face is understanding the dynamics of survival and transmission when it comes to porous items like linen and clothing.” She emphasizes the importance of awareness and proper cleaning and disinfection protocols.

According to a spokesperson for IHRSA: The Global Health & Fitness Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes fitness and counts thousands of gyms and other exercise facilities as members, “The top priority for health clubs is to provide a healthy and safe space for their members to be active and maintain their overall well-being. The IHRSA urges health clubs to maintain a clean and safe environment at all times. We expect clubs to consistently wipe down equipment and surfaces and provide members and consumers with appropriate sanitizing products to clean surfaces before and after use A thorough cleaning every night also helps prevent the spread of viruses It is standard practice to have hand hygiene stations available throughout the facility to eliminate bacteria and germs And, of course, regular hand washing is important to staff and members.

At the start of the pandemic, the spokesperson added, the IHRSA launched an initiative to reaffirm the industry’s dedication to global health and safety, instituting best practices, still in place, in cleaning and disinfection.

And luckily, Popescu points out, nonporous surfaces — including gym equipment and carpets — are easier to clean quickly and properly than porous surfaces, like sheets. She would still recommend single-use items when possible, such as individual yoga mats that people can bring from home. But, she notes, touching such objects is “not as risky as having close and prolonged contact with a sick person.”

So what about play equipment and transmission to children?

“Honestly, as an infectious disease specialist,” Popescu says, “you’ll never hear me say we don’t need to clean this equipment – ​​it’s quite sensitive and kids carry germs!” Still, the risk is currently low, although that could change “if more pediatric cases are identified,” she says. (So ​​far, two pediatric cases have been reported in the United States, both thought to be due to household transmission from affected adults.)

“I think we should focus on risk communication and routine, sustainable cleaning/disinfection for general health,” says Popescu, adding that while advice around cleaning and disinfecting surfaces can be eerily reminiscent of the early days of COVID, there is a key difference.

“We know a lot more about monkeypox and have had decades to understand it,” she says of the virus first recorded in humans in 1970. “But there are still gaps – traditionally we We’ve handled it primarily in healthcare settings, and our experiences and protocols reflect that.We need more community-based recommendations for handling things like clothing and bedding in hotels or stores.

But more importantly, adds Popescu, “we need to communicate that the risk is still quite low and that we are not flying blind – we have room for improvement, but certainly a better understanding of the disease than the new virus that causes COVID-19.”

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