Originally published October 9 2014
Ebola can be sexually transmitted by survivors up to 90 days after symptoms end
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Sexual transmission of Ebola could cause a resurgence of the disease even in regions where the epidemic has supposedly been eradicated, the World Health Organization (WHO) and one of the scientists who first identified the virus have warned.
Within days, the WHO expects to officially declare Nigeria and Senegal free of Ebola, as soon as those countries reach the 42-day mark with no reported infections. It takes a maximum of 21 days for Ebola symptoms to emerge following infection. Thus, the 42-day mark includes a healthy buffer to allow for late reporting.
But studies have shown that, in people who have survived the disease, the live virus may persist for up to 90 days in semen and could therefore be sexually transmitted.
Six months of condoms for safetyCurrent estimates place the death toll in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in west Africa at higher than 3,400. Nearly all deaths have occurred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which continue to be ravaged by the disease. The virus causes fevers, severe abdominal pain and, often, massive bleeding. It kills between 50 and 90 percent of all who become infected, typically due to organ failure and fluid loss.
Ebola outbreaks typically begin when people come into contact with infected animals, such as fruit bats (the original host of the virus), monkeys or apes. This often occurs when people consume these animals for food ("bush meat"). The disease can then be transmitted between humans when blood, vomit, diarrhea or other bodily fluids are expelled during the course of the infection. Even the bodies of people who have died of Ebola are infectious; experts believe that this has been a major route of infection transmission in West Africa, where funeral practices involving direct contact with corpses are common.
Because most infection occurs via exposure to corpses or to sick individuals, health advice has often overlooked the fact that the virus may persist in the body for months after symptoms disappear.
"In a convalescent male, the virus can persist in semen for at least 70 days; one study suggests persistence for more than 90 days," the WHO said in an October 6 update.
"Certainly, the advice has to be for survivors to use a condom, to not have unprotected sex, for 90 days," said Peter Piot of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of the people who first identified the Ebola virus in 1976. "If we would apply the rule for double the time, that would be 180 days -- six months. I think it (90 days) is probably a compromise, for practicality."
1.4 million infected by January?Ebola cases in West Africa continue to double every 20 to 30 days and are anticipated to reach 1.4 million by January if the outbreak is not stemmed. Approximately 40 percent of all people infected with the disease so far have contracted it in the past three weeks.
The WHO admits that its infection and fatality estimates are likely drastically underestimated. Actual deaths may be as high as 10,000.
The ongoing epidemic is by far the worst Ebola outbreak in history, and global health institutions have been overwhelmed by the speed of its spread. While prior outbreaks typically occurred in remote rural areas, the current outbreak was not detected until three months after the first case, by which point the disease had already spread beyond its place of origin.
The rapid spread of Ebola in urban centers quickly overwhelmed local health facilities, causing patients to be turned away and therefore return home, infecting others. Lack of basic healthcare supplies also meant that health workers could not adequately protect themselves from infection.
To learn more about how to prepare for a potential Ebola crisis here in the U.S., be sure to check out:
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