Dirty yoga mats can carry herpes, expert warns

It’s probably the last place you expect to catch herpes.

But dirty yoga mats can carry the highly contagious virus, which can cause cold sores around the mouth, experts have warned. 

Dr David Greuner, managing director and co-founder of NYC Surgical Associates, is urging people to clean down their mats after using them.

‘Bacteria, viruses, and germs love the hot, humid, and sweaty environments that exist in yoga studios,’ he said in a blog post.

Dirty yoga mats can carry the highly contagious herpes virus, which can cause cold sores around the mouth, an expert has warned

Dirty yoga mats can carry the highly contagious herpes virus, which can cause cold sores around the mouth, an expert has warned

‘Making skin contact with a dirty yoga mat covered in germs and bacteria can lead to skin infections, acne, toenail fungus and even transfer of the herpes virus and staph and strep infections.’ 

Buy your own mat 

Dr Greuner also recommended lovers of yoga, embraced by celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson, should buy their own mat to reduce their risk of falling ill.

He added: ‘You don’t know how frequently those yoga mats are being cleaned between classes, and you can cut out the guesswork by just bringing your own. 

‘If one person is sick and goes to yoga class, chances are those germs are still lingering on the mat and can be passed along to you.’

For those who have to borrow mats, they are advised to thoroughly clean it with a disinfectant before they use it.

They should also make sure they lay down a towel on top of the mat to ‘minimise direct skin contact’, Dr Greuner recommends. 

Can it really be passed on through skin contact? 

However, the outlandish claim that herpes can be passed through contact has long been disputed by researchers.

Mayo Clinic experts say that the chances are ‘nearly impossible’ – suggesting there’s no reason to avoid yoga studios.


The first ever effective genital herpes vaccine has succeeded in pre-clinical trials, MailOnline reported in January.

The three-dose injection, administered over six months, was deemed the most promising formula ever created to target HSV2, the strain that causes infectious genital warts.

No experimental jab had ever achieved strong or consistent results in a clinical trial.

The formula has provided powerful protection in guinea pig and money models at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Evidence shows that outside of the body, the virus dies after just a few seconds. It lasts for a little longer in moist environments.

This means in the case of sweaty yoga mats, the virus can last on the object for a little longer.

But other experts argue it is completely impossible for it to be passed on through touching objects. 

The Herpes Viruses Association says on its website: ‘The virus is caught from the skin, not from objects. It is a delicate virus and dies quickly when away from the skin where the sore is.’

The prevalence of herpes

In 2015, scientists at the World Health Organisation made the first ever estimate of the global prevalence of herpes.

They said that more than 3.7 billion people suffer from the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which causes cold sores around the mouth.

And another 417 million people aged 17 to 49 have the other form called HSV-2, which is associated with causing sores around the genitals.

How do people become infected? 

Most people who are infected with the herpes virus, of which there are eight strands, never develop signs and symptoms. It is currently incurable.

HSV-1 is often contracted in childhood, through skin-to-skin contact with an infected adult, or sharing objects such as toothbrushes or cutlery.

HSV-2 is usually transmitted sexually and can increase the risk of catching and spreading HIV, which leads to AIDS. 

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