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Fact Check-Atlanta-area drinking water has not been found to contain monkeypox

A Twitter post saying the monkeypox virus was detected in Atlanta-area water has worried some social media users into thinking drinking water could put them at risk. The television news clip shared in the post describes a new initiative to monitor local wastewater for infectious diseases, and does not report the detection of monkeypox in any public water supply or drinking water.

A Twitter post shared on August 8 (here) includes a video recording of a portion of a July 26 news report broadcast by Atlanta’s WSBTV. In the recording, a man’s voice is audible over the TV sound saying, “Monkeypox in the water!... A-T-L… oh man,” and much of the news report is inaudible. The video contains an added label above the television set, “PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT,” and the tweet includes the text, “Sooooo Monkey Pox is now in the water.”

Users shared the tweet nearly 200 times, and responded to it with comments such as, “ It’s reminding me of those plagues in the Bible fam this crazy” (here), “I'm more [and] more convinced that the government is trying to kill us all” (here) and “This is where I live. So now I want them to go test the water in North Fulton County. Immediately. Because if they don't have it in their water, we got a wild law suit against the state coming” (here).

A version on Facebook was shared over 7,500 times (here). Comments include, “It’s good that I don’t drink tap water” and “How did they get monkey pox into the water?”

The TV clip is describing the start of a program to test local wastewater as a means of detecting infectious diseases, including monkeypox, in the population. The same day, the station’s website also reported the start of the wastewater-monitoring project, and the collection of the first wastewater samples for testing that day (here).

The Fulton County, GA, website also announced the planned wastewater testing on July 25 (here).

Patrick Person, Water Quality Manager with Fulton County Water Services and Public Works, told Reuters, “The testing is on WASTEWATER. The social media clip you are referring to is false and misleading. Again, we are testing WASTEWATER” and “The drinking water is 100% safe.”

Marlene Wolfe, an Emory University professor involved in the Atlanta wastewater testing, has also described the project publicly (here) as part of a larger disease-monitoring program that looks for SARS-CoV-2, flu viruses, respiratory syncytial virus, and monkeypox in wastewater.

Brian Katzowitz, Senior Director of Health Communications and Media Relations at Emory University also confirmed this is the case. He told Reuters, “The wastewater surveillance testing that we are working on with Fulton County samples wastewater (not drinking water) from a sewer shed to test for the virus that causes monkeypox. Treated drinking water is not at risk for being contaminated with this virus.”

VERDICT

Misleading. A television news report did not describe the detection of monkeypox in the Atlanta-area drinking water supply, but rather the beginning of a project to test wastewater for signs of monkeypox in the population.

(Update August 12, 2022: Adding comments from Emory University rep)

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts  here . 

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