Fact Check: Can Monkeypox Spread Through Contact With Clothes?

Monkeypox has continued to spread throughout the globe. There have been over 14,500 recorded cases since May, with over 2,100 of those being in the United States, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Before this current outbreak, monkeypox was only usually recorded in areas of rural Africa. And it appears to be spreading differently than before.

Direct, physical contact is believed to be the main source of transmission, however there have been queries as to whether it could spread through different routes.

And as with any outbreak, there is an onslaught of information online. Particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic, people are eager to know how exactly it can be transmitted, in order to take preventative measures.

Monkeypox
In this combination image, a stock photo of a laundromat with many washing machines and an inset of a person with monkeypox.

The Claim

A tweet, posted on July 19 by mother earth at @nonbinarybooty, claimed that monkeypox can be spread through clothing.

"The fact that monkeypox can be spread just by touching someone else's clothing is insane to me like I actually never wanna go anywhere ever again," the Tweet reads.

As of July 21, the tweet has been retweeted nearly 8,400 times, quoted over 1,200 times and has received 82.4K Likes.

Many responded to the tweet, some expressing panic while others disagreed with the claim.

One user said: "No, that's false. It's much more risky breathe the same Air than touch a person's clothing. That's what masks are still important. The virus is in the person, not in its clothes."

However, others thought that the claim was likely true.

"It does sound insane that monkeypox can be spread by simply TOUCHING someone ELSE'S clothes. However, who thought that COVID-19 would have KILLED more than 1 million AMERICAN citizens since it's introduction as a pandemic in 2020! Worse, the threat is not yet over!" another user said.

Others accused the Twitter user of scaremongering.

The Facts

Direct, physical contact with an infected person is the main way monkeypox spreads.

One of the main symptoms of monkeypox is a rash, or lesions over the body. The virus is particularly contagious if one of these blisters is directly touched.

However, not all monkeypox cases can be explained through direct contact. Experts have previously stated that the virus can also be travel through blister fluids from the rash.

In a previous outbreak in Africa, a nurse became infected with the virus while after removing a patient's clothing without adequate PPE. There have also been cases amid other outbreaks where health care workers did not recall directly touching a patient.

A new study, published by Eurosurveillance, assessed the hospital rooms of two monkeypox patients.

It found that fabrics "extensively used" by patients did indeed contain viral contamination.

The CDC also states on its website that monkeypox can be spread by "touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids."

Andrew Lee, professor of public health at the University of Sheffield in the U.K, told Newsweek that yes, the virus can spread "through contact with contaminated clothing, linen used by an infected person."

"Although I think direct contact with the infected skin lesions probably pose a higher risk," Lee said.

Similarly, Connor Bamford, research fellow in virology and antiviral immunity at the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, told Newsweek that it is possible, however it is not a "major mode of transmission," particularly for the epidemic outside of Africa.

"The virus is found at high levels on the skin on areas that are in contact with clothes, like hands, feet or genitals. This virus is pretty stable and can remain infectious in the environment for extended periods of time likely for days or weeks at the very least. If you were to touch contaminate objects then possible to get infection this way," Bamford said.

"Given the association of this outbreak with likely prolonged intimate contact I would say spread via clothes is minimal. If you were concerned you could limit this way of spread and avoid touching clothing and taking care to wash your own clothing (if you thought you had the virus) and remember to wash your hands regularly."

The Ruling

Fact Check - Mostly True

Mostly True.

Monkeypox can spread through contaminated clothing. This mainly occurs when blister fluids from lesions fall onto fabrics used extensively by an infected person.

The virus can also remain infectious on these fabrics for a prolonged amount of time, meaning anybody who touches it could catch the virus.

However, this is a minimal form of transmission. While it is certainly possible, it is much more likely that monkeypox will be caught through direct, skin to skin contact with an infected person.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK