Ebola now a confirmed STD

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Ebola
Suspected carrier of Ebola virus James Flomo sits in isolation with his children after his wife Lorpu Flomo died three days earlier in Monrovia, Liberia, January 21, 2015. Reuters/James Giahyue

In shocking news, Ebola has now been confirmed as a sexually transmitted disease after a 44-year-old Liberian woman died in March 2015. It was learnt that she had unprotected sex with a male Liberian Ebola survivor who had been tested negative through various blood tests, the last of which was done in October 2014. The woman died just 15 days after contracting Ebola on March 7, reports Pedestrian.

The man voluntarily took a semen and blood test after the woman’s death. Surprisingly, his blood tested negative yet again, although his semen tested positive. The NEJM reports that only during acute illness is Ebola known to be detectable in the bloodstream. However, it can stay on for much longer in the body, having been found up to 101 days after onset in semen; up to 98 days in aqueous humour; up to 33 days in vaginal secretion and up to 15 days in breast milk. In this astonishing case, the survivor had tested negative until 155 days before intercourse.

However, sexually transmitted Ebola is still a rare event. Ardman Sprecher, a Medecins Sans Frontieres doctor who worked extensively with Liberian Ebola victims, said in a research editorial that “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”. 

“If sexual transmission from survivors were an important means of disease propagation, we would have seen a number of cases by now,” he added.

After the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in December 2013, the disease spread to Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia. Stray cases were also reported in the US, Europe and other regions in the world. Though the virus has stopped spreading and infecting more people as quickly as before, new cases are still being detected, according to a Softpedia report.

It is now important to amend health guidelines to accommodate this discovery and to counsel survivors into strictly ensuring that they do not inadvertently spread the virus.

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