Is casual sex a risk factor for SARS-CoV-2 transmission?
According to the CDC, SARS-CoV-2 is mostly spread during close contact with an infected person via respiratory droplets and can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission.
To accompany our cover story on STDs, we asked Ravina Kullar, PharmD, MPH, FIDSA, a spokeswoman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America and an infectious disease expert and epidemiologist at Expert Stewardship Inc., whether casual sex is also a risk factor for SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
To date, there is no solid evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted through genital or anal contact. However, because it is a respiratory virus spread by droplets, SARS-CoV-2 is passed on via kissing and physical touching, which commonly occur during sex.
A small study of 38 patients showed that SARS-CoV-2 can be present in the semen of patients with COVID-19, and that SARS-CoV-2 may still be detected in the semen of recovering patients, although this does not mean there is presence of infectious virus.
That being said, having sex casually with several individuals during this pandemic is quite risky.
Even if each individual may present with a negative COVID-19 test, we know now that there are a lot of people — 40% to 50% — who get the virus who are presymptomatic and could potentially transmit it. Therefore, everyone has to assume that anyone they encounter whom they do not know could potentially be infectious.
Even though sexual contact is one of the essential parts of humanity, during a pandemic, casual sex could increase SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and I would not recommend it, even when using condoms. For those not in a committed relationship, abstinence is the only guaranteed way to cut the risk for transmitting SARS-CoV-2.
- Li D, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.8292.
Click here to read the Cover Story, “Pandemic causes ‘mass disruptions’ in STD field.”