05/07/2022

Monkeypox infection: What is the risk of transmission through food?

In France, there has recently been an increase in the number of people infected with the monkeypox virus, responsible for monkeypox infection, mainly in Europe. The virus may be transmitted through direct contact with someone who is ill, and through respiratory droplets. ANSES was asked to provide an urgent assessment of the risk of transmission of this virus via food.

A risk that cannot be completely excluded

At present, transmission of the virus through ingestion of contaminated food has not been clearly established.

However, based on the available data, the Agency has indicated that the risk of transmission of the monkeypox virus to humans via food cannot be excluded. Food can be contaminated directly by a person who is ill, especially if the person handles food while he or she has lesions or scabs on their skin. Food can also be contaminated through contact with a contaminated surface. Transmission to humans through food may then occur through the ingestion or handling of the contaminated food.  

Apply good hygiene practices to prevent the risk of transmission

In general, if a person is infected with the virus, authorities recommend self-isolating. The Agency also indicates that when a person has infected hand injuries, regardless of their origin, they should neither handle food nor cook for others. This also applies when they have symptoms resembling those of monkeypox (rash, fever, headache, tiredness, muscle pain, etc.).

In addition, the Agency issues the following recommendations for professionals in the catering and food industry:

  • Professionals should raise employee awareness of the symptoms of this virus so that they can report cases quickly if an infection should occur and provide effective management of contact persons;
  • Since the virus may persist in the environment, it is important to follow good hygiene practices, as well as good cleaning and disinfection practices for both equipment and premises, in order to limit contamination in areas where contagious people may be present.

This request follows the one on the risk of monkeypox spreading to pets.

What is monkeypox or simian pox?

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the Monkeypox virus (MPX), originating in Central and West Africa. This virus has been identified in various wild animal species, although the precise source or reservoir has not been formally determined.

The disease can be transmitted through direct contact with the skin lesions or mucous membranes of an infected person as well as through respiratory droplets (saliva, sneezes, sputum).

> To find out more about the virus, visit the Santé publique France website (in French).