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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke August 15, 2022

Monkeypox in wastewater isn’t evidence of tampering

If Your Time is short

  • Monkeypox has been detected in wastewater in the Atlanta area, where scientists are testing samples to gauge the virus’s prevalence there. 
  • Monkeypox DNA winds up in wastewater when running water in showers or sinks passes over the sores of infected people. It’s not being “put” there intentionally by someone. 

A video being shared on social media adds what may seem like a worrisome layer to the monkeypox health emergency in the United States — that the virus is being put in the water. 

"Monkey pox in the water," someone can be heard saying while recording a news broadcast at a water reclamation facility in Fulton County, where Atlanta is the county seat. "ATL, oh man, they put something else in the water."

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The July 26 news broadcast in the post reported on scientists testing wastewater for COVID-19 and the monkeypox virus to better gauge infection rates in the area. Some people have interpreted the video to mean that there’s monkeypox in the Atlanta area’s drinking water, and as multiple fact-checkers have noted, that’s wrong

Monkeypox was detected in the wastewater there, but that doesn’t mean someone put it there, or intentionally tampered with the water supply in Atlanta, as the post suggests. 

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Rather, because the monkeypox virus can cause pus-filled blisters, running water over these sores in a shower or sink "can catapult monkeypox DNA into wastewater," according to the MIT Technology Review, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s bimonthly magazine.

"Recent data suggest that the DNA of monkeypox can also be detected in a variety of bodily fluids from those infected," the publication says. "That includes respiratory and nasal secretions, spit, urine, feces and semen — meaning a flushed tissue from someone with monkeypox can register the virus in wastewater."

Even so, there’s no evidence people can contract monkeypox from wastewater. It’s been spreading among humans via close contact with infected persons and exposure to their rash, bodily fluids, or respiratory droplets. 

We rate claims that monkeypox is being put in the water False. 


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Monkeypox in wastewater isn’t evidence of tampering

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