Can ebola linger in the human body?

The Global News Network recently reported fears of ebola’s ability to resurge in the wake of a 30 year-old woman’s death in Liberia. Her death officially ended Liberia’s official “ebola free” status, which is only received after a 42 day period without any new cases of the disease. Liberia had been ebola free since September 3, according to the WHO.

The concern is not limited to Liberia– in fact, both Guinea and Sierra Leone have faced similar cases following the 42 day clearance period. The primary fear is that the disease is able to lay dormant within the human body. The infected person would not show symptoms immediately, and could theoretically pass the infection on to others. The case in Guinea is believed to be a result of sexually transmitted ebola. Some research theorizes that ebola can remain active in the semen for between 40 and 90 days. Other studies have apparently shown that as many as 25% of males tested seven to nine months after infection still have the virus active in their semen. This adds an entirely new dimension to the strategy of protecting people from ebola.

As if this was not concerning enough, a teenage boy died in Liberia of ebola this week. This comes only weeks following the death of the woman in the same country. The question now remains– will we see more cases of ebola popping up from previously infected individuals? These two deaths reveal just how little the medical community knows about ebola and how it infects humans. While the situation is definitely concerning, it is not yet time to panic. These two incidents were isolated within a country that was at the center of the 2014 outbreak. Plus, antibody therapy for the disease has made definite progress, increasing hopes that we will one day have a vaccine, or even a cure, for this deadly virus.


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