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What you really need to know about COVID-19 transmission in semen

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsMay 8, 2020

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Photo: Stocksy / Garage Island Crew

Scientists are still deep in the research process of uncovering all the ways in which COVID-19 can be transmitted. The results of a recent, small study of 38 Chinese men who either had COVID-19 or were recovering from the virus, suggests that SARS-CoV-2—the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19—may be transmitted through semen.

Of the 38 men studied, only six were found to have SARS-CoV-2: four with the virus and two in recovery. Among the study participants, the researchers at the Eighth Medical Center of Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital in Beijing found no differences in age (all of them ranged in age from 20 to 59), urogenital disease history, or days since symptom onset, meaning the study doesn’t reveal too much about whether or not COVID-19 may be transmitted through sexual activity.

“This does not translate to sexual transmission; it hasn’t been proven,” Amesh Adalja, MD, spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America tells Medpage Today. “The majority of people are getting [COVID-19] through respiratory transmission.” The researchers say that if more evidence backs the fact that the virus lives in semen, people might consider using condoms more rigorously—even when the world begins to re-open in earnest.

Masturbation will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after sex.” —NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Even though the medical community doesn’t have definitive proof that SARS-CoV-2 could be transferred from one partner to another, the study serves a much-needed reminder that “safe sex” has a different definition right now. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene wrote back in April: You are your safest sex partner. Masturbation will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after sex.” (Now’s a really good time to check out your body’s lesser-known erotic zones through some self-exploration.)

If you are going to get it on with a partner (one you live with), make sure both of you are willing to accept the risk of being with one another. If you’re not shacking up with a significant other, lean into online dating if you feel drawn to do so, but keep all things—including sex, semen, and the like in the digital world.

Until we know more about this, sex is safest with yourself and second-safest with your partner.

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