The public has been misinformed regarding human-to-human transmission of Ebola. Assurances that Ebola can be transmitted only through direct contact with bodily fluids need to be seriously scrutinized in the wake of the West Africa outbreak.
The Canadian Health Department states that airborne transmission of Ebola is strongly suspected and the CDC admits that Ebola can be transmitted in situations where there is no physical contact between people, i.e.: via direct airborne inhalation into the lungs or into the eyes, or via contact with airborne fomites which adhere to nearby surfaces. That helps explain why 81 doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers have died in West Africa to date. These courageous healthcare providers use careful CDC-level barrier precautions such as gowns, gloves, and head cover, but it appears they have inadequate respiratory and eye protection. Dr. Michael V. Callahan, an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital who has worked in Africa during Ebola outbreaks said that minimum CDC level precautions
“led to the infection of my nurses and physician co-workers who came in contact with body fluids.”
Currently the CDC advises healthcare workers to use goggles and simple face masks for respiratory and eye protection, and a fitted N-95 mask during aerosol-generating medical procedures. Since so many doctors and nurses are dying in West Africa, it is clear that this level of protection is inadequate. Full face respirators with P-100 (HEPA) replacement filters would provide greater airway and eye protection, and I believe this would save the lives of many doctors, nurses, and others who come into close contact with, or in proximity to, Ebola victims.
The United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases conducted a monkey to monkey Ebola study in December 1995, published in The Lancet, Vol. 346. (Here is a link to the abstract, but the entire article must be purchased.) Several Rhesus monkeys were infected with Zaire Ebola by intramuscular injection while three control Rhesus monkeys were kept in cages separated 10 feet from the infected monkeys. All of the injected monkeys died of Ebola by day 13 and 2 out of 3 control monkeys died of Ebola by 8 days after that. The authors of this study concluded that:
"The exact mode of transmission to the control monkeys cannot be absolutely determined, although the pattern of pulmonary antigen staining in one of the control monkeys was virtually identical to that reported in experimental Ebola virus aerosol infection in rhesus monkeys, suggesting airborne transmission of the disease via infectious droplets... Fomite or contact droplet transmission of the virus between cages was considered unlikely. Standard procedures in our BL4 containment laboratories have always been successful in the prevention of transmission of Ebola or Marburg virus to uninflected animals. Thus, pulmonary, nasopharyngeal, oral, or conjunctival exposure to airborne droplets of the virus had to be considered as the most likely mode of infection... Our present findings emphasize the advisability of at-risk personnel employing precautions to safeguard against ocular, oral, and nasopharyngeal exposure to the virus."
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