ATLANTA — A MARTA commuter train passenger who joked about having monkeypox when they were really suffering from an unrelated allergic reaction caused a stir Monday after the train was evacuated and temporarily removed from service to be cleaned.

Another rider heard their fellow passenger mention monkeypox around 3:15 p.m. and reported it to MARTA police, a spokeswoman for the transit authority said. Emergency medical personnel were at the train’s next stop at the East Point station and the car was evacuated.

In a statement Tuesday, MARTA officials said the passenger was having an allergic reaction and was only joking about having monkeypox.

More about monkeypox

According to Georgia’s Department of Public Health, monkeypox can affect anyone, but so far mostly affects men who have sex with men. It can spread through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, respiratory droplets, and the handling of bedding or clothing from an infected person. DPH advises that, while contact with fabric or surfaces that have previously touched the monkeypox rash or body fluids is one way the virus spreads, that avenue of exposure has not been identified as a common mode of transmission in this outbreak or for monkeypox in general.

In Tuesday’s statement, MARTA echoed the guidance provided by DPH but emphasized that “chances of transmission in a public setting are low.”

“We encourage customers to continue wearing masks for their comfort. Frequent hand washing also remains an effective way to reduce the transmission of most illnesses,” the MARTA statement said. “Additionally, MARTA will continue the routine cleaning and disinfection of all vehicles implemented during COVID and any in-service cleaning necessitated by a sick patron.”

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