The Monkeypox virus is not transmitted through air and is only transmitted through physical contact or coming in contact with contaminated materials, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said on Friday, 10 June.
The WHO said that Monkeypox now posed a very real risk of spreading further, with the total cases crossing 1,000 from 29 countries where the virus is not endemic to, on 9 June.
In a statement, the CDC said that the virus may be transmitted through respiratory droplets but could not survive and stay airborne for longer distances.
The UK, which has recorded more than 370 cases of monkeypox stated that it is a "high consequence infectious disease" that can be transmitted through air. The WHO has warned that the airborne transmission of the virus, albeit rare, is dangerous and warrants precautions in the event it occurs.
In the United States alone, cases have been reported from over 15 states.
Since 13 May, cases of monkeypox have risen and almost touched 1,500, with more suspected infections.
"Up until now, Monkeypox patients presented themselves with flu-like symptoms and later, the characteristic rash would appear. However, recent cases are showing a different pattern- some get a rash first, while some do not show symptoms at all,'' said Dr Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC. "No deaths have been recorded yet."
The question of whether monkeypox can spread through airborne still needs a comprehensive answer. However, the WHO has issued guidelines on safety in case you're exposed to the virus. These include isolation and avoiding contact with contaminated bedding and/or clothes if you live with a monkeypox patient.
“Airborne transmission may not be the dominant route of transmission nor very efficient, but it could still occur .”Lindsey Marr, Expert on Airborne Viruses, Virginia Tech
Cases of airborne transfer of monkeypox have been reported in the past. Two healthcare workers in Nigeria who did not have any physical contact with an infected individual reported positive for monkeypox in 2017. In the current situation, there may be a few patients who do not know how or where they got infected, and airborne transfer could be a reasonable explaination for the same.
What are The Experts Saying?
"The agency is right to reassure the public that the outbreak is not a threat to most people, because monkeypox is not nearly as contagious as the coronavirus."Dr Donald Milton, Expert on Airborne Virus Transmission, University of Maryland
Lidia Morawska, an air quality expert at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, wrote that the claims of monkeypox being large dropets are baseless.
Monkeypox has shown to take space up in the respiratory tract or saliva, which during singing, speaking, coughing or sneezing can expel infectious droplets.
While the CDC says airborne transmission is not possible, it has however, acknowledged the possibility of short-term transmission through air, advising patients to wear N-95 masks.
Cases in the UK whose source of infection still remain unidentified also suggest the possibility of monkeypox spreading under the radar, and that the true caseload might be much larger.