Just when you thought it might be over, Ebola is back in the news. Don’t worry, there is not another outbreak; however, health officials trying to control the virus and restore order are finding that the virus can still infect people for up to a week after its host dies.
Indeed, a new study has identified that the “transmission [of Ebola] from deceased persons is possible for an extended period after death.” The researchers go on to say, “Family members exposed to [Ebola] patients during late stages of disease, or who had contact with deceased patients have a high risk for infection.”
For this study, the researchers looked at five macaque monkeys that had contracted the virus during previous Ebola research and then were euthanized. Examining the active virus still operating within the bodies of the dead monkeys, they investigated how long it would remain that way. The researchers put the bodies—which still showed symptoms—in a chamber designed to replicate the conditions of West Africa.
Co-lead study author Vincent J. Munster described it as “like a big deli fridge where you can manipulate the temperature and humidity.”
Dr. Munster continues, “We don’t smell anything, [specifically from the corpses]. We’re wearing positive pressure suits. We’re not breathing the air from the same room. If we could smell the corpses, there’s a chance we could be infected, and that’s a no-no.”
He’s saying that the live virus is undetectable.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, states, however, that the study provides “microbiological proof positive of what we’ve been observing in a field setting — that kissing or washing or caressing bodies is almost certainly the way a lot gets transmitted.”
The study has been published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.