Sexual transmission of Ebola
Modeling study shows how sexual transmission of Ebola can extend the epidemic in Sierra Leone by several months.
Several studies have recently provided evidence that Ebola virus can be transmitted sexually from survivors after recovering from the life-threatening acute phase characteristic of Ebola virus disease. However, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the impact of sexual transmission from convalescent survivors on the final phase of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Christian Althaus from the Immuno-Epidemiology research group and colleagues from France, Germany and the University of Bern developed a mathematical model that accounts for a secondary transmission route of Ebola virus through sexual contact with otherwise healthy survivors. They found that while very few additional cases are expected, a 3-month period of convalescent infectivity could extend the epidemic in Sierra Leone by nearly 3 months, and a 6-month convalescent period could double the current length by extending it an additional 18 months.
While the number of infectious survivors is expected to greatly decline over the coming months, the results of this study show that further transmission events may still be expected. Public health communities must therefore remain vigilant as each sexual transmission event can lead to a new Ebola transmission cluster.
Picture credit: UNFPA