Professors at the University of Illinois in Chicago assert that the Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via “infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients,” suggesting that the current understanding of Ebola only being communicable via direct contact is inaccurate.
In a piece published by CIDRAP, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, authors Dr Lisa Brosseau and Dr Rachael Jones highlight how Ebola currently has “unclear modes of transmission.”
“We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks,” states the article.
Making reference to “controversy about whether Ebola virus can be transmitted via aerosols,” the authors assert that the current understanding that Ebola can only be transmitted by by direct contact with virus-laden fluids is “incorrect and outmoded.”
The authors note that US health professionals currently tackling Ebola are being put at risk because of the failure to offer them proper “respiratory protection,” making reference to hundreds of fatalities of Ebola health workers in West Africa due to facemasks or surgical masks which offer “very minimal protection from infectious aerosol particles.”
“Being at first skeptical that Ebola virus could be an aerosol-transmissible disease, we are now persuaded by a review of experimental and epidemiologic data that this might be an important feature of disease transmission, particularly in healthcare settings,” states the article.
Earlier today, Anthony Banbury, the United Nations’ Ebola response chief warned of the “nightmare scenario” that Ebola could go airborne as a result of a mutation if it continues to infect new hosts.
“The longer it moves around in human hosts in the virulent melting pot that is West Africa, the more chances increase that it could mutate,” said Banbury, adding, “It is a nightmare scenario, and unlikely, but it can’t be ruled out.”
As we reported yesterday, the Public Health Agency of Canada deleted information from its official website which indicated that the “airborne spread” of Ebola was strongly suspected by health authorities.
Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, also acknowledged in a recent New York Times op-ed that virologists are “loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private” the possibility that Ebola has gone airborne.