Ebola Believed To Be Potentially Airborne, Researchers Claim

Tara Dodrill - Author

Oct. 17 2014, Updated 6:11 a.m. ET

Editor’s note: this story has been amended to reflect that the primary source was submitted to and published by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy; the research and findings reflected did not originate with CIDRAP and should not be attributed to CIDRAP.

Ebola may have the potential to be airborne, according to a September commentary submitted to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota. The authors believe “scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients.”

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The scientists behind the report warn that surgical facemasks will not prevent the transmission of Ebola. According to the report, medical workers must immediately be given full-hooded protective gear and powered air-purifying respirators.

An excerpt from the report — submitted to CIDRAP by the authors, “who are national experts on respiratory protection and infectious disease transmission” — reads, “Healthcare workers play a very important role in the successful containment of outbreaks of infectious diseases like Ebola. The correct type and level of personal protective equipment (PPE) ensures that healthcare workers remain healthy throughout an outbreak—and with the current rapidly expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it’s imperative to favor more conservative measures.”

The report goes on to note that any action which can be taken to “reduce risk” of Ebola exposure should not wait until a “scientific certainty” develops.

“The minimum level of protection in high-risk settings should be a respirator with an assigned protection factor greater than 10. A powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) with a hood or helmet offers many advantages over an N95 filtering facepiece or similar respirator, being more protective, comfortable, and cost-effective in the long run,” the report also adds.

The working theory about Ebola transmission from the CDC and the agency’s director Thomas Frieden, is incorrect and “outmoded” according to the report.

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“Virus-laden bodily fluids may be aerosolized and inhaled while a person is in proximity to an infectious person and that a wide range of particle sizes can be inhaled and deposited throughout the respiratory tract,” University researchers concluded.

Background information detailing why these experts believes the CDC and WHO are functioning under an outdated mode of thought when it comes to how infectious diseases are transmitted via aerosols is also included in the new report.

“Medical and infection control professionals have relied for years on a paradigm for aerosol transmission of infectious diseases based on very outmoded research and an overly simplistic interpretation of the data. In the 1940s and 50s, William F. Wells and other ‘aerobiologists’ employed now significantly out-of-date sampling methods (eg, settling plates) and very blunt analytic approaches (eg, cell culturing) to understand the movement of bacterial aerosols in healthcare and other settings. Their work, though groundbreaking at the time, provides a very incomplete picture,” the report said.

According to researchers, early aerobiologists were unable to measure small particles near an infected person and therefore made an assumption that such particles existed on far from the source and airborne transmission could have happened around 3-feet or so from the source.

Do you think about airborne Ebola? Should flight restrictions and mandatory quarantines be enacted in order to prevent an Ebola pandemic in America?


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