Does Public Nudity Spread Disease?

Not especially.

Michael Thomsen

Public nudity. Click image to expand.Can you catch a cold, or worse, from nudists?

A proposed law in San Francisco would require the city’s nudists to cover public seats with a protective barrier before sitting down. Supervisor Scott Wiener, who introduced the bill, claims that sharing bus seats, cafe benches, and restaurant chairs with naked people is a threat to public health. It’s a claim that’s been repeated in city ordinances and even a Supreme Court case. Does public nudity really increase the spread of infectious diseases?

Not especially. Unlike most cities in the United States, San Francisco law has allowed public nudity for years so long as it is not "lewd" (i.e. directly connected to a sex act). Yet the city’s department of public health has no published cases of a person who became sick from exposure to the neighborhood nudists. Whatever bodily microbes one of them might deposit on a seat pose no more of a health risk than those you might find in a public restroom or pick up by shaking hands with a stranger.

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