Initially, scientists think that the Ebola virus only survives in semen of male survivors for a few months. But now, a new study published in Lancet Global Health has revealed the mind-blowing fact that the deadly virus such as Ebola can actually stay in semen much longer than we expected.
The new study
The study looked at semen samples from 466 Ebola survivors participated in Liberia’s Men’s Health Screening Program. 38 of those samples tested positive for Ebola virus at least a year after the provider recovered from the disease. According to the report, most of the providers were men older than 40 years old. Surprisingly, there was one patient who had recovered perfectly for 565 days, yet his semen still contained the virus. Before this finding, the majority of evidence supported that the virus could be found in survivors’ semen for 3 months after their recovery. But now, we know for sure that it can persist even longer than a year.
Unprotected sex responsible for the Ebola viruses’ comeback
The CDC believes that the Ebola incident in March 2015 was actually a result of sexual contact. This contact collaborates with news releases from many other health institutions. A Liberian woman was dead due to Ebola. Yet the country had been proved to be clear of the disease. Her only potential encounter with the virus was determined to be the unprotected sex she had with an Ebola survivor, whose semen tested positive for the virus after the incident. The man had been living well for 199 days. Although the CDC cannot be sure whether the virus in positive samples can pass on the disease or not, they still strongly recommend male survivors to use condoms during sex.
The effects of the study in Liberian community
In addition to the scientific breakthrough, another contribution of the study is probably the safe sex education. 75% male survivors who entered the study did not use condoms before that but decided to go for protected sex after knowing the risk. This public awareness is extremely important in preventing the disease from flaring up again. At the moment, it is clear how many lives we can save investing in public health capacity.
The study has left several unanswered questions, such as whether Ebola drugs can speed off the elimination process from the semen or not. Still, it provides significant insights into the mechanism of the virus, which helps protect both survivors and their loved ones.
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