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Airdate: Dec 03, 2014
Scientist: Linsey Marr

Ebola - Unexpected Vector

Ebola - Unexpected Vector
There may be other ways for a virus to be launched into the air other than by coughing and sneezing.

Ebola Unexpected Vector

A virus is usually considered to be "airborne" if it can be spread by coughing or sneezing or even talking. Well, it turns out there may be other ways for a virus such as Ebola to get into the air. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Marr: Ebola does not appear to be airborne, or if it is, it's a very very low chance of that happening.

Lindsay Marr I'm a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Virginia Tech Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology.

Marr: The pattern of how the disease happens, in that only people who are in very close contact with sick people tend to get sick, suggests that it's not airborne. That said, there may be a chance under a very limited set of conditions, where the virus could be found in air.

Ebola is known to cause a lot of diarrhea. And we know from prior studies that when you flush a toilet, that it creates aerosols and large droplets. And people have shown that bacteria and viruses seeded into the toilet bowl can be found in the air after flushing. So this is one possible route of transmission. It probably would not be much of one in Africa where they probably don't have as many flushing toilets as we do. So it's a possibility, but this route of transmission has never been proven. It has been speculated about.
It seems like it would be a good idea to put the lid down before flushing with Ebola patients. I don't know if hospitals if the toilets all have lids or not but, it certainly wouldn't hurt. There have been several studies looking into this question and it does definitely reduce the amount of aerosols that come out of the toilet.

Airborne transmission of ebola does not appear to be a risk at all to the general public. But for healthcare workers, I don't think we have enough evidence to rule it out completely.

I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.