It seems like a lifetime ago that Americans were in an uproar over the ebola virus in 2014. However, the hysteria that came with the United States first death on American soil from ebola seemed to drift away just as fast. The other people exposed to the deadly virus were all cured of it from an experimental vaccination. All was right with the world again.
Fast forward just one year, and rarely has ebola reared its ugly head outside of international news. Of course, that was the case until this week. The New England Journal of Medicine issued a report this week making a new discovery when it comes to the spread of ebola. According to the report, it is now thought that ebola can be spread sexually.
At first glance, this case seems open and shut. Why would anyone have sex with someone known to be carrying the ebola virus? The worry comes from the way the case actually developed.
A Liberian woman died in March. She had unprotected sex with a man whose blood had tested negative for ebola for the last 155 days. Researchers suggested that the ebola could linger in semen for up to nine months after a patient was to test negative for the virus in their blood samples.
Armend Spencer of Doctors Without Borders offered up some hope for those that might start to feel uncomfortable by the latest finds.
“As Deen et al. acknowledge, finding Ebola virus RNA in semen does not imply that it is infectious, and they are carrying out further testing to look for active virus in the specimens. Until their study is complete, their results should be considered preliminary. However, no matter what they find, sexual transmission remains a rare event.”
Up until this point, the longest that ebola had stayed active in a semen sample was 82 days. This should still be a concern to those in areas of the world where the disease continues to be widespread. In a lot of those areas, sexual violence rates against women are extremely high compared to the rest of the world.
Earlier this year, the rVSV-ZEBOV was made available. The vaccine is currently being tested to try to combat the ebola virus on a wider scale than the vaccine manufactured for those in the United States in 2014. According to Wired, the tests have come back 100 percent effective. Wired was quick to point out that “100 percent effective” came with a certain caveat.
According to the study referred to, it is hard to determine if the vaccine stopped the infections or the infections just stopped. With the uproar that occurred in the United States, groups treating the disease took new measure to try to prevent the spread of disease occurring. It is not known if the two countries that received the samples, Guinea and Sierra Leone, kept good statistical records of patients who had received the vaccine.
Even if a vaccine was made available in countries where ebola continues to spread, would the new evidence brought forth by the New England Journal of Medicine create another issue? If ebola can stay in a previously affected person’s semen for up to nine months, how do you prevent the now vaccinated person from having sexual contact until the virus is out of his system.
What do you think of the latest findings about ebola from the New England Journal of Medicine? Do you think it will have a bearing on the ebola vaccine that is currently being developed? Is the ebola virus something that even causes you to worry? Let us know what you think.
[Photo by Corbit]