The often cited line from Mean Girls is “don’t have sex, or you’ll get pregnant. And die.” While this is obviously a jab at the poor sexual education in schools, it actually might be a good idea to abstain from sex after you have contracted Ebola.
“Hold on,” you might say, “are we still talking about Ebola?”
Unfortunately, it still is a relevant issue. From the nurse in Scotland who suffered health complications months after her Ebola infection to the news that Ebola has been detected in other areas of the body, such as the eyes and in semen, Ebola unfortunately has not disappeared yet. The first identified Ebola cases were in 1976, yet researchers and doctors did not know until recently that it could hide in other parts of the body. This is because previous outbreaks were in the few hundreds and death rates were typically above 50%, leaving few survivors. In the most recent outbreak, thousands of people have survived, providing new information about the disease. Now that the outbreak is slowly coming to an end, we can take a look at how the survivors are doing.
Feature Image Source: Andrew Brookes
Medical professionals suggest that male patients refrain from unprotected sex for three months after release from the hospital, but new evidence shows that Ebola may linger in the body for even longer. Studies in the New England Journal of Medicine have been testing men for up to nine months after their infection only to find that there are still detectable levels of Ebola genetic material in the semen of these men.
News that Ebola virus is able to hide in the body is something to be aware of but not necessarily something to be completely alarmed by. For one, they found fragments of dead virus. We do not know if these men were contagious, but we do know that there was some viral RNA left in the body. For now, it appears that sexual transmission is rare. There has only been one confirmed case thus far in which a man had unprotected sex five months after fighting off Ebola and passed the disease to his partner. But the real fear is that Ebola may once again arise in an area declared “Ebola-free” because it lingers in the body, and that is something that needs to be addressed. The WHO, US and Chinese CDC, and Sierra Leone government will continue to study this issue.
Feature Image Source: CDC Global