Ebola can be transmitted through the air

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Originally posted Oct 23, 2014; 6:30 pm

I haven’t been looking at news much yet today, trying to stay focused on other things. But I needed to look something up for confirmation and ended up glancing at a couple of the 15 or so stories staring at me. There was a story about Kansas City (MO) hospital workers being threatened with termination if they used the word ‘Ebola’ in any context for any reason. I don’t see how using euphemisms will help with anything other than those officials always being able to say, ‘nope, no Ebola here.’

But it was the link to related content after the article that was truly intriguing. That article starts “Ebola can spread by air in cold, dry weather” referring to a 1995 research study asserting that airborne transmission is possible but not in the warm, moist climates where Ebola is endemic. The study abstract begins “The potential of aerogenic infection by Ebola virus was established by using a head-only exposure aerosol system.”

In 1989, a primate quarantine facility in Reston, VA became an Ebola hotspot because imported monkeys were dying from it. Officials successfully kept the virus isolated. In addition to having no monkeys escape, the good news was that this appeared to be a strain that didn’t infect humans. However the bad news was that the Ebola passed between monkeys which weren’t in the same room. Ebola went airborne, likely traveling in the buildings’ air ducts.

The incident in Reston is thought to be the “first time the infection spread through the air” though it has never been demonstrated between humans. With colder, drier weather becoming prevalent across much of the country for many months, it would be good to know if the Ebola strain/s causing this outbreak can go airborne like those in 1989.

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