Ebola is not spread through the air. Got it. But why not?
October 1, 2014 9:42 PM   Subscribe

What prevents someone who inhales aerosolized droplet(s) of body fluids contaminated with Ebola virus from getting sick? Is there a known mechanisim involved that explains this or is it just a best guess since no cases have been observed yet that seem to involve inhalation of droplets that resulted an Ebola infection?
posted by DB Cooper to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Because, among other reasons outlined in this article, Ebola doesn't really attack the respiratory system (at least in primates). Of course, you can still get Ebola through the mucous membranes in your mouth/nose/eyes.
posted by acidic at 10:05 PM on October 1, 2014

Best answer: The leading research on this topic comes from CIDRAP at the University of Minnesota linked above, who has been publishing on this topic for the last several months. There is clear, documented evidence that the Ebola virus infects both endothelial and epithelial, cells and has been transmitted between both primates and pigs via airborne mechanisms.

The problem is that our infectious disease protocols and scientific overview predates modern medicine. As pointed out in the CIDRAP September 17th news release, the definition of aerosolized virus vs airborne is build on rather shaky philosophical ground. At that time they urged American hospitals to begin to treat Ebola as though it were in fact capable of airborne transmission, as another promine filovirus, the Marburg virus, was in fact fairly virulent and capable of airborne contagion.

The current transmission based infectious disease protocols have three settings: contact, droplet, and respiratory precautions. Current evidence suggests that the Ebola virus is fairly resistant to environmental degradation, lasting over 50 days intact in one experiment. The virus is expressed in all fluid secretions, even after recovery. As such I agree with CIDRAP, it's important to treat Ebola as though it could be transmitted through aerosolized particles because we have those resources here to do so, and it's imperative we do not underestimate this virus.

On a related note of gallows humor, the medical waste disposal company for Emory University broke their contract after they found out about the Ebola patient being airlifted into Atlanta, and it took considerable political pressure to get them to resume operations. I believe they had to substantially upgrade their incineration equipment.

Regardless, the primary mission of public health authorities is to prevent panic and ensure quarantine. So I understand their decision to minimize the threat publicly while working 24/7 behind the scenes to make their empty assurances a reality. It's a tough row to hoe.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 10:41 PM on October 1, 2014 [25 favorites]

Here is the CIDRAP release from Sept 17 mentioned above, as linked from the most recent Ebola thread on the Blue: Health workers need optimal respiratory protection for Ebola.
posted by KatlaDragon at 1:09 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

hobo gitano de queretaro: In short, they're lying to us to keep us placid? well, shit.
posted by leotrotsky at 3:00 AM on October 3, 2014

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