First Case Of Ebola Transmitted As STI Months After Recovery

Photo: Jonathan Brady/AP.
Last year, Americans were in panic mode due to the possibility of Ebola spreading across the country. In 2014, only one person died from the Ebola virus while in the U.S. And after the successful recovery of two other patients who contracted the virus here, the panic over a potential outbreak in the U.S. subsided.

Now, there’s a new reason to fear Ebola: It can be transmitted sexually even after it appears the patient has recovered. This week, researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that a Liberian woman — who became sick and died in March — was the first person known to contract the Ebola virus from sex.

It turns out that months after a male Ebola survivor tested negative for the disease, he was able to transmit the virus to a female partner through unprotected sex. His blood tested negative for Ebola 155 days before the pair had sex. But semen samples taken after the woman became ill revealed that the virus was still in his system.

Experts knew that Ebola could linger in patients post-recovery, in some cases, turning up in semen and bodily fluids nine months later. Researchers had also suggested that sexual transmission was possible. But this is the first confirmed case.

Researchers and experts say this is no cause to panic. Armand Sprecher of Doctors Without Borders wrote in an editorial that “sexual transmission remains a rare event.” He added that there have been 17,000 survivors from the most recent Ebola outbreak, but only this singular case of sexual transmission has popped up.