Chlorine Bleach: An Asset During the Monkeypox Outbreak

Last month the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the current monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. As of 5 August 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted 28,220 cases of monkeypox have been reported worldwide in the current outbreak. While our knowledge of this outbreak continues to develop, scientists tell us that monkeypox is not as easily spread as COVID-19. According to WHO, the “monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.” Unlike its deadlier relative, smallpox, monkeypox commonly presents as a mild disease, although it too has the potential to cause severe illness. Symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a painful or itchy rash with what appear to be pimples or blisters.

The monkeypox virus can survive in linens, clothing and on environmental surfaces, according to CDC. Fabrics should be contained until laundered, and if possible, people with monkeypox should handle and launder their own soiled laundry. Laundering can be done in a standard washing machine with detergent; laundry sanitizers are not necessary, according to CDC. In contrast, the CDC recommends disinfecting all areas where a person with monkeypox has spent time, including all items potentially contaminated by that person, such as “tables, countertops, door handles, toilet flush handles, light switches, and floors.” Among other disinfectants, the virus can be substantially inactivated on contaminated surfaces by a chlorine bleach solution prepared by adding 100 milliliters of approximately 6% (by weight) liquid bleach to 1 liter of water. The solution should remain on the surface for one full minute.[1] As with all disinfection procedures, environmental surfaces should be cleaned with detergent and water before they are disinfected.

In early 2020, we described how a diluted bleach solution could be used to destroy SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces. As the world community now contends with monkeypox, it is good to know that common household bleach can be used to help reduce the spread of yet another virus of global concern.

[1] These directions produce a bleach solution of 0.63 weight percent, which falls within the range of the data provided by Kampf (2022; see abstract).

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