While Ebola has been reported to have disappeared from the three African nations at the center of the enormous outbreak-Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia- for about a week, it’s now found to be just lying dormant. Apparently, it could come back in force.
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has discovered that the terrible disease can be contained in men’s sperm for a very long time, with the host not even knowing that they are still contagious.
The study showed that two-thirds of the men investigated had detectable loads of Ebola in their semen up to half a year after they had been first infected, and some were even infectious up to nine(!) months later. This is despite the men not showing any signs of symptoms.
Has Ebola been transmitted sexually yet, after time? Yes. There has already been one recorded case of a man who passed Ebola to his sexual partner when he did not exhibit any symptoms himself. This new study now indicates that a person could pass the disease on even after they have been apparently cured.
Conclusion? The sexual transmission of Ebola is rare, states the WHO, but when in doubt, as always, wear a condom! These men who have suffered from Ebola and survived may have to wear a condom indefinitely when having sex, in order to be sure to not transmit the illness.
In case you’ve been out of the loop, the Ebola epidemic of 2014 ripped through West Africa and has killed over 11,000 people to date, becoming the most devastating outbreak of the virus in history, going so far as to kill more people than every previous Ebola outbreaks on Earth, combined.
The drastic illness causes, among other things, fever, severe headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, unexplained hemorrhage, panic and often leads to death. It is believed to be animal-borne, and to have bats and/or apes and monkeys as the most likely reservoir. It is found in several African countries.
The disease is not, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, transmitted through the air, but through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.
Ebola first surfaced in documentation in 1976, near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Currently, there is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola, but there is a vaccine that is used with some success.
Part of the problem in getting approved drugs, is that trials of Ebola vaccines have been very difficult to complete. International and local health organizations have had to design studies and carry them out in unstable, and sometimes remote regions while producing useful data about safety and efficacy, which has been challenging.
“It’s a high-risk thing to take on a large scale vaccine trial,” says Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “It usually takes a few years to lay the groundwork.”
So, the illness may just be in hiding but hopefully the occurrence of Ebola will continue to diminish.