The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has spent the last decade or two trying to convince people to wear condoms during sexual intercourse in order to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Prior to that, it and other public health authorities had spent many decades trying to get people to wear condoms during sexual intercourse to reduce the risk of acquiring gonorrhea or syphilis. And well before that, for at least 400 years, the condom was a popular form of birth control worldwide.(continue)Now, the CDC finally has something to scare people into putting one on, a motivation so powerful that just about everyone reading this article will think twice about going latex-free at the next close encounter: Ebola.
Yes, the Ebola virus is potentially a sexually transmitted disease. Some have suggested that sexual transmission may account for some of the cases in the current completely uncontrolled outbreak engulfing West Africa. The risk is great enough that most experts recommend no unprotected sexual intercourse for three months after recovery.
The evidence is simple and quite compelling. It has been known for a long time, from other outbreaks, that a man who recovers from Ebola—in the current outbreak, about 45 percent survive—has detectable Ebola virus DNA in his semen for up to seven weeks. In addition, among infected women, viral DNA has been found in vaginal secretions for weeks after recovery. No one is certain that the viral DNA is actually living, transmissible virus—but any time a rapidly dividing virus is detectable for that long it is, in my opinion, certain that the virus is in fact alive and ready to kick.