Experts Say Airborne Transmission of Ebola Highly Unlikely
(HealthDay News) — People face no threat of airborne transmission of Ebola, according to a panel of Ebola experts gathered by the New England Journal of Medicine for an issue briefing Wednesday.
The evidence from this epidemic, and prior Ebola outbreaks, strongly suggests that the deadly virus cannot be transmitted through a cough or sneeze, said Armand Sprecher, M.D., a public health specialist with the aid organization Doctors Without Borders. "If there were significant airborne transmission, we would see spontaneously generated cases that were not linked to a known case. There would be cases of casual transmission," Sprecher said in response to questions from health professionals.
"The best evidence that we have suggests that the overwhelming route of transmission is through contact with contaminated fluids with broken skin or mucous membranes," Arjun Srinivasan, M.D., associate director for health care-associated infection prevention programs at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The fluids in question are primarily vomit and diarrhea, which develop as Ebola infection progresses. The experts said people become more infectious as they grow sicker with Ebola, as the amount of virus in their system escalates.
Within the first day of the disease, when you simply have a fever and no production of bodily fluids, you don't see disease transmission through casual contact, Srinivasan said. "So we assume that it is not easily transmissible during the incubation period or even into the first day or two of the disease," he said. However, the experts admitted that these assertions are based on observations by epidemiologists, rather than by hard scientific evidence. Not enough research has been done to provide definitive answers because Ebola outbreaks have been so rare.