In June of this year, the WHO declared the end of Ebola virus transmission in the Republic of Guinea and in Liberia. This landmark came 42 days after the last person … who was previously confirmed to have Ebola virus disease tested negative for the second time. Guinea and Liberia are currently in a 90-day period of heightened surveillance to ensure that any new cases are identified quickly before they can spread to other people.
But, that 90 day waiting period may be far too short, according to new data presented both at an Ebola-virus conference last week, and in a report published in the August 30 issue of Lancet Global Health.
by studying a population of 466 male Ebola survivors, the scientists identified 38 men who had Ebola virus remaining in their semen. Out of those 38, 24 of them tested positive for Ebola 12 months or longer after recovery. This is not good news.
Also, rare but meaningful cases were identified, such as the first case of a healthy mother who was experiencing no Ebola symptoms, yet passed the virus to her baby via breast milk. The baby later died from the infection.
The biggest cause for concern may be the transmission of virus by sperm. It is believed that the virus exists in sperm longer than other areas of the body because the testes do not have as strong of an immune system, allowing the virus to remain undetected longer. There are thousands of male Ebola survivors and many of them are participating in a study of Ebola viruses and semen being conducted through a collaboration between the CDC and the Liberian government.
At present, the longest that Ebola has been found to survive in sperm is 18 months following recovery. This is consistent with an outbreak that was attributed to a man 17 months after his recovery in Guinea and Liberia. It is certainly possible that the virus will be able to exist for longer than this, which highlights the importance of these new studies.
And, of course, still open borders; so how many of these people are coming to the United States and celebrating their arrival by having sex? Will exposure to Ebola be added to the screening questionnaire to gain entry into the USA? Of course not.