Ebola: The New STD?

Ebola: The New STD?

Two Ebola cases appeared unexpectedly in West Africa in April 2015. Both cases involved women who had no known risk factors for the Ebola virus. Both women, however, had male partners who were Ebola survivors, and both died after contracting the disease.

This has caused experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reconsider the guidelines first issued—that Ebola survivors abstain from sex for three months after being found Ebola-free. The CDC has changed its guidelines, urging Ebola survivors to refrain from having any sex without use of a condom “until more information is available.”

Cindy Whitney, MD, the CDC’s Ebola response incident manager, said, “Ebola has been found in the semen in male survivors. This is very concerning because they can spread Ebola after they’ve recovered. We are doing a study with the World Health Organization (WHO) and others to learn how long the virus might be found in semen."

The WHO issued similar guidelines when the first case came to their attention. “One early case was a pathologist who infected himself during an autopsy, but survived,” says Keith Roach, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Sharecare. “He then infected his wife sexually, and she died. This has been known for many years.” While a handful of Ebola cases of possible sexual transmission were identified at the height of the Ebola epidemic, there was no further investigation.

The effort to follow-up with the men whose partners recently died can be difficult, experts say, although one of the men did provide a semen sample. Evidence of Ebola was found in his semen almost six months after he first developed symptoms—74 days longer than ever found in a survivor.

As the investigation continues, WHO is looking into the possibility of the Ebola virus remaining in other bodily fluids, such as vaginal and eye fluids, and if so, whether it’s infectious.

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