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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Minnesota Analysis Does Not Rule Out the Potential for Respiratory Transmission of the Ebola Virus in Humans

A new comprehensive analysis from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, involving leading international Ebola researchers, examines what is known about transmission of the Ebola virus and cautions that the public health community should not rule out the possibility of respiratory transmission.

The analysis was published February 19 in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Evidence suggests that direct patient contact and contact with infectious body fluids are the primary modes for Ebola virus transmission, however, this evidence is based on a limited number of studies. Prior to the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa there have been only 24 reported Ebola outbreaks with approximately 2,400 cases reported over the previous 39 years.

Due to the limitations of current data on Ebola virus cases, the role of aerosol transmission remains unclear. Transmission potentially occurs via virus-laden aerosols generated through the emission of body fluids during vomiting, diarrhea, or coughing. It is advised that more studies are needed to better understand aerosol transmission in spreading the disease.

“In our comprehensive review, we address what we know and what we don’t know about Ebola virus transmission,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, lead author, professor in the School of Public Health, and CIDRAP director. “We also hypothesize that based on the best scientific evidence, Ebola viruses have the potential to be respiratory pathogens with primary respiratory spread.”