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Friday, October 16, 2015

Nigeria: Ebola Survives in Semen for Nine Months, Says Study


Semen of men who have had Ebola can still contain the virus up to nine months after the start of symptoms, preliminary results of a new study have shown.

The results are the first in a long-term study of persistence of Ebola virus in body fluids being jointly conducted by the World Health Organisation, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Sierra Leonean defence ministry and its counterpart health and sanitation ministry.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation said a focus is to under how survivors may be affected after their initial recovery as Sierra Leone tries to get to zero cases and take care of its survivors.

"These results come at a critically important time, reminding us that while Ebola case numbers continue to plummet, Ebola survivors and their families continue to struggle with the effects of the disease," said Bruce Aylward, WHO Director-General's Special Representative on the Ebola Response.


"This study provides further evidence that survivors need continued, substantial support for the next 6 to 12 months to meet these challenges and to ensure their partners are not exposed to potential virus,"

Past research showed the virus persisted in semen, but better understanding of it is considered important for supporting survivors to recover and to move forward with their lives.

Ninety three men over the age of 18 from Freetown, Sierra Leone, provided a semen sample that was tested to detect the presence of Ebola virus genetic material.

The men enrolled in the study between two and 10 months after their illness began. For men who were tested in the first three months after their illness began, all were positive.

More than half of men who were tested between four to six months after their illness began were positive, while one quarter of those tested between seven to nine months after their illness began also tested positive, researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Why some study participants had cleared the fragments of Ebola virus from semen earlier than others remains unclear.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is conducting further tests of the samples to determine if the virus is live and potentially infectious.

"Ebola survivors face an increasing number of recognized health complications," said CDC Director Tom Frieden.

"This study provides important new information about the persistence of Ebola virus in semen and helps us make recommendations to survivors and their loved ones to help them stay healthy."

At least 8000 people who have survived the virus across the three most-affected countries are male, and will need education, counselling and regular testing to know whether the virus persists in their semen, alongside measures to prevention their partners from potential exposure to the virus.

Male survivors are recommended to abstain from all types of sex or use barrier protection until their semen has tested negative twice, the WHO says.

[Judd-Leonard Okafor, Daily Trust]

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