Monkeypox can survive for weeks in water and refrigerated food

The monkeypox virus can remain stable for days and even weeks on refrigerated foods and water, according to a report from the US Department of Homeland Security’s Directorate of Science and Technology (DHS).

Monkeypox continues to spread around the world, with three new deaths on last Friday and Saturday – the first such death confirmed outside Africa. Meanwhile, cases continue to rise, with more than 22,485 confirmed infections reported globally as of July 29, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Almost all of them have occurred in countries that historically have not reported cases of monkeypox.

Scientists still don’t know much about the outbreak, including why it is occurring now when the disease has historically remained endemic to West and Central Africa.

A report from the US Department of Homeland Security said the monkeypox virus can persist for days to weeks in water, soil and refrigerated foods. Above, an artist’s depiction of the virus.
Getty Images/Doctor Microbe

At the same time, there is also much that experts know about the disease, and a wealth of details were provided in the DHS Science and Technology report, published on July 12.

The report covers everything from transmissibility to infectious doses. One section contains information about what we know about the ecological stability of monkeypox virus – in other words, how long it can survive outside the body.

The report describes monkeypox as “extremely stable” in the environment and says it can survive “for days to weeks in water, soil and refrigerated foods.” She adds that the virus can live from months to years inside the crusts.

The report does not say how long the virus can live on surfaces, but the CDC said investigators found the live virus 15 days after the patient’s home was left clear, according to one study.

The CDC also said that smallpox viruses such as monkeypox can survive in linens, clothing, and surfaces well in dark, cool, and dry environments. The CDC said that porous materials such as bedding and clothing may contain live viruses for a longer time than non-porous materials such as plastic, glass or metal.

Other closely related orthopoxviruses can survive in a family-like environment for several months.

Regarding disinfection, the Department of Homeland Security report said that as of July 12, there is no data showing the effectiveness of the most common disinfectants against monkeypox virus, but bleach is recommended against emerging viruses. The report also stated that testing with the vaccinia virus – a relative of monkeypox – indicates that Virkon, Dettol and Sanytex disinfectants are effective.

Survival on the surface is important because experts know that while sexual transmission played an important role in the outbreak this year, monkeypox can be spread by contaminated objects such as clothing.

The virus can also be spread by direct contact with the rash it causes, contact with body fluids, contact with respiratory secretions, and intimate contact such as sex, kissing, hugging, and prolonged face-to-face contact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Also, a pregnant woman can transmit the virus to the fetus. In addition, the virus can be transmitted from infected animals, including their meat.

According to a DHS report, the basic reproductive number, or R-value, of monkeypox is estimated to range from 0.57 to 0.96, although a maximum value of 1.25 is observed. The R number for the virus indicates the number of people who will be infected by each infected person.

However, the R value of the current outbreak is unknown. The rate of monkeypox transmission is believed to have increased over time.

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