Can Having Sex Get You Sick with Coronavirus?

April 24, 2020 Topic: Health Blog Brand: Coronavirus Tags: HealthCoronavirusCOVID-19Sex

Can Having Sex Get You Sick with Coronavirus?

While kissing and other intimate activity associated with sex can absolutely lead to the spread of coronavirus, it doesn't appear that it can be transmitted through the act of intercourse itself.

We all know that coronavirus can be transmitted person-to-person, through respiratory droplets, airborne transmission, and even surface transmission.

But what about through sexual intercourse? One new study finds that it cannot be spread that way-at least, not directly.

While kissing and other intimate activity associated with sex can absolutely lead to spread of coronavirus, it doesn't appear that it can be transmitted through the act of intercourse itself.

A group of scientists from the University of Utah Health has published a study in the medical journal Fertility & Sterility, with the title "No evidence of SARS-CoV-2 in semen of males recovering from COVID-19."

The international team of U.S. and Chinese scientists examined 34 adult Chinese men who had been diagnosed with coronavirus. The scientists did note that the sample size for the study was small, and that those who participated in it were not "severely ill." It also remains inconclusive whether coronavirus has any long-term effect on male fertility.

"The fact that in this small, preliminary study that it appears the virus that causes COVID-19 doesn't show up in the testes or semen could be an important finding,"  James M. Hotaling, M.D., a co-author of the study, said in the press release announcing it. "If a disease like COVID-19 were sexually transmittable that would have major implications for disease prevention and could have serious consequences for a man's long-term reproductive health."

Past viruses such as Ebola and Zika, the study said, were indeed sexually transmitted, which was the impetus for looking at whether coronavirus could too.

A health.com article from earlier this month looked into whether it's safe to have sex during the pandemic.

“The coronavirus is a respiratory virus. It can be transmitted through your saliva and intimate contact, but it is not directly transmitted genitally,” Dr. Mark Surrey of UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine told the site.

New York City's health department has also issued much-cited guidelines for sex in the time of coronavirus, and those guidelines are the rare government communication to include the phrase "you are your safest sex partner." The document also states that "the next safest partner is someone you live with," and advises New Yorkers to avoid sex with that outside of their households. And they advise you to "skip sex if you or your partner is not feeling well."

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. 

Image: Reuters.