Ebola Spreads Through Droplets – Can Survive, Remain Infectious for Weeks on Cold Surfaces

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Originally posted Oct 28, 2014; 8:30 pm

The CDC had to come clean sooner or later, many had already broached the topic.

As I noted several days ago, airborne transmission of Ebola is possible, though the only known instance occurred in non-human primates and with a different strain of the virus. But now the CDC now warns that ‘droplet spread’ is a possible method of aerosol transmission. Droplet spread occurs when someone coughs or sneezes, spraying virus inside droplets. The CDC considers the danger zone to be within 3 feet of the sick person, though I’d assume 8 feet is probably safer. To most people, including me, this is airborne transmission in practicality, but in medical parlance it is not. To the CDC, true airborne transmission occurs “when a germ floats through the air after a person talks, coughs, or sneezes” which is a little different, but the fact remains that one can touch nothing and still get Ebola.

That’s bad. But what’s even worse is that Zaire Ebola virus can “survive for long periods in different liquid media and can also be recovered from plastic and glass surfaces at low temperatures for over 3 weeks” (pdf). Got that?

That’s from research conducted over 4 years ago.

The most pertinent details relate to significant quantities of virus being present dried on plastic ebola survival dried onto cold surfaceand glass after 15 days (at 4°C). Two other important positive findings are that no virus could be recovered from materials at room temperature and no virus could be recovered of any metal surface. But for glass and plastic, is dried Ebola infectious after a week or two in cold temperatures?

“This study has demonstrated that filoviruses are able to survive and remain infectious for cell culture, for extended periods when suspended within liquid media and dried onto surfaces. In addition, decay rates of a range of filoviruses, within small-particle aerosols, have been calculated, and these rates suggest that filoviruses are able to survive and remain infectious for cell culture for at least 90 min.”

I hope this virus dies out quickly in the U.S. (and everywhere of course), because an Ebola outbreak in cold temperature, at least for some strains, seems prone to present transmission problems that I imagine no one really wants to face.

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