Growing Concerns Over "In The Air" Transmissions Of Ebola


A BBC News article from November 15, 2012:

Canadian scientists have shown that the deadliest form of the ebola virus could be transmitted by air between species.

In experiments, they demonstrated that the virus was transmitted from pigs to monkeys without any direct contact between them.

The researchers say they believe that limited airborne transmission might be contributing to the spread of the disease in some parts of Africa.

They are concerned that pigs might be a natural host for the lethal infection.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the infection gets into humans through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs and other bodily fluids from a number of species including chimpanzees, gorillas and forest antelope.

The fruit bat has long been considered the natural reservoir of the infection. But a growing body of experimental evidence suggests that pigs, both wild and domestic, could be a hidden source of Ebola Zaire - the most deadly form of the virus.

Now, researchers from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the country’s Public Health Agency have shown that pigs infected with this form of Ebola can pass the disease on to macaques without any direct contact between the species.

In their experiments, the pigs carrying the virus were housed in pens with the monkeys in close proximity but separated by a wire barrier. After eight days, some of the macaques were showing clinical signs typical of ebola and were euthanised.

One possibility is that the monkeys became infected by inhaling large aerosol droplets produced from the respiratory tracts of the pigs.

“What we suspect is happening is large droplets - they can stay in the air, but not long, they don’t go far,” he explained.

“But they can be absorbed in the airway and this is how the infection starts, and this is what we think, because we saw a lot of evidence in the lungs of the non-human primates that the virus got in that way.”

The scientists say that their findings could explain why some pig farmers in the Philippines had antibodies in their system for the presence of a different version of the infection called Ebola Reston. The farmers had not been involved in slaughtering the pigs and had no known contact with contaminated tissues.

Dr Kobinger stresses that the transmission in the air is not similar to influenza or other infections. He points to the experience of most human outbreaks in Africa.

“The reality is that they are contained and they remain local, if it was really an airborne virus like influenza is it would spread all over the place, and that’s not happening.”

Hidden host
The authors believe that more work needs to be done to clarify the role of wild and domestic pigs in spreading the virus. There have been anecdotal accounts of pigs dying at the start of human outbreaks. Dr Kobinger believes that if pigs do play a part, it could help contain the virus.

“If they do play a role in human outbreaks it would be a very easy point to intervene” he said. “It would be easier to vaccinate pigs against Ebola than humans.”

“It’s an impressive study that not only raises questions about the reservoir of Ebola in the wild, but more importantly elevates concerns about ebola as a public health threat,” he told BBC News. “The thought of airborne transmission is pretty frightening.”

At present, an outbreak of ebola in Uganda has killed at least two people near the capital Kampala. Last month, Uganda declared itself Ebola-free after an earlier outbreak of the disease killed at least sixteen people in the west of the country.

This YouTube video, which provides commentary on this article, is also highly interesting:

So, I’m very curious what people here make of all this. Is this just alarmist nonsense? Do we have any microbiologists here at Catholic Answers Forum? Or anyone else who might be able to shed some light upon the epidemiology of the various Ebola strains, both new and old?


Right now, the Ebola that is infecting humans is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

The natural host for Ebola aren’t pigs, but fruit bats.


I don’t believe there is a precedent. Its a blood virus which would have to mutate to air through the respiratory system. Same theory with HIV or Hep etc. That said its certainly spreading quickly in Africa and causing panic. Certainly the reason its here in Atlanta is to study it and there is something needed at the CDC in Atlanta or I have to think they would have opted to treat it in Africa. Not much being said by offcials, rather quiet.


There is a project underway to develop an ebola vaccine. There will be a vaccine trial in September.

The USA will launch an early-stage trial in September of an experimental vaccine against Ebola, the deadly viral disease that has killed 729 people in the largest outbreak in history.

The National Institutes of Health has been developing an Ebola vaccine for several years that has had “encouraging results” in primates, says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci said he’s working with the Food and Drug Administration to fast track the vaccine into a phase 1 clinical trial this fall.

This type of trial is the earliest study in humans and aims to make sure that drugs are safe and show some efficacy.

Results from the study should be available by January, Fauci said. If the vaccine proves safe and effective, Fauci said he expects that it could be given to health workers in affected African countries sometime in 2015.


Americans love freaking out- it excitement to their day.

People will manufacture worry when there is no need for it.


My husband (a physician) and I were discussing this last night. Viruses tend to mutate in order to survive- and we were thinking that this virus might have become transmissible through the air. One reason for our thinking this is the rapid increase of cases- many more cases and much quicker than other Ebola outbreaks. Also, the young physician who is being flown to Emory today with Ebola was, according to all sources, meticulous in his precautions and well trained during his residency at John Peter Smith, an excellent program in Ft. Worth/ Dallas. He wasn’t exposed to any fluids inadvertently, yet contracted Ebola. Today my husband received a notice from the World Health Organization that indeed it might be airborne and to take all precautions. As the wife of a physician- and mother of 3 more physicians (one an E.R. doctor) it scares and worries me!! We can only continue to pray that this outbreak is quickly controlled. And continuous monitoring is needed in order to assess changes in modes of transmission.


And we need to be down on our knees praying we don’t have another plague like, world wide situation.God Bless, Memaw


Well this is interesting, indeed. And that’s putting it very mildly.


Marbleartist, it would be amazing if you could post a scan of that WHO notice! If you do manage to, though, please be sure to carefully and completely redact your husband’s name.


This is not an airborne virus. Transmission requires close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, also after death. Apart from this specific situation, the general public is not at high risk of infection by the Ebola virus.,d.b2U


Actually, marbleartist, as much as I would love to see that document, upon reflection I just don’t think it’s a good idea. There would really be no way to do it and stay truly anonymous. The WHO is obviously an extremely heavyweight organization, and it’s really not worth the risk. I suppose you of all people, with a husband and three kids who are physicians, must know the absolute hell people have to go through to get a medical license. I mean, it’s almost too obvious to even say, but it’s not something you would want to jeopardize.


A contrary statement exists from the one they released 3-hrs ago? I don’t see how that would help their reputation. Further since there is no precedent I would suggest its extremely unlikely. Course madmen is labs increase the possibility.


I just talked to both my husband and one of my sons- not because of Ebola but just because they called to check in. The son is a hematologist/oncologist at a major medical center and actually had a noon conference on Ebola today! However, it isn’t really as related to hematology as one would imagine- the bleeding is more DIC. He (and my husband) feel that it is primarily transmitted as previously thought. The WHO alert also raised the possibility that it can be transmitted in large airborne droplets- and recommended precautions. My son felt that the rapid transmissions were more related to unavailability of health care or a distrust and reluctance to seek health care- increasing exposure. I think he also mentioned the size of the cities vs villages of this particular outbreak. When I asked his opinion on the airborne aspect, especially with the young infected physician, he felt that the doctor probably was exposed by contact outside of his patients, perhaps another health care worker or undiagnosed person. You have to understand that I’m getting all of this second hand so am probably leaving out important details. :blush: I do find the whole thing alarming and will continue to pray for the victims and their families- and for a quick end to this outbreak.


Hey marbleartist, I really want to say thank you for the information!:slight_smile: I consider it very valuable! I’m also praying for a quick end to this.


Justifiably concern over this virus being air borne is to be taken very seriously, and it is most newsworthy to find out the American dr who became infected was following all procedures meticulously.

I also heard on CNN about Dr Sanjay Gupta saying that virus spreads mainly by direct contact with body fluids…same for various forms of hepatitis and AIDS. He said it is difficult to get Ebola. And these cases come around every so often for a small number of patients in Africa, the source of the disease.

On the side here, to get hepatitis, if you touch a blade infected with hepatitis, which can be active being in the sun for some time, your chances are far greater to become infected. About getting AIDS, if you get some exposure outside the traditional way of direct contact…it is like having drop of water hit the volume equal to a swimming pool of water.

Yet most certainly we pray for more studies on the nature of this virus, which immediately shuts of our immune system and that of our blood clotting ability.

God bless all those suffering from this terrible disease, for the health care workers, and for scientists who are learning more to find solutions.


Calling Jack Ryan!


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