18 June 2019

Kenya: Why Male Ebola Survivors Cannot Have Unprotected Sex for a Year

Men who have recovered from the Ebola virus disease (EVD) should practice good hygiene and safe sex at least 12 months after the onset of the symptoms to avoid sexually transmitting the disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

According to WHO fact sheet on the highly contagious disease, the virus persists in the bodily fluids even months after a person is declared Ebola free.

"Ebola virus is known to persist in immune-privileged sites in some people who have recovered from Ebola virus disease. These sites include the testicles, the inside of the eye, and the central nervous system.

"In women who have been infected while pregnant, the virus persists in the placenta, amniotic fluid and fetus. In women who have been infected while breastfeeding, the virus may persist in breast milk," the WHO Ebola virus disease fact sheet states.

SEXUAL TRANSMISSION

A few cases have been recorded on the possibility of sexual transmission of the virus, even months after the survivor recovers.

According to a report by the Centre For Disease Control (CDC) on March 20, 2015, a woman in Monrovia, Liberia was confirmed to have contracted the virus possibly through sexual contact with a survivor six months after he was released from the treatment centre.

"The investigation identified only one epidemiologic link to Ebola: unprotected vaginal intercourse with a survivor. Published reports from previous outbreaks have demonstrated Ebola survivors can continue to harbor virus in immunologically privileged sites for a period of time after convalescence," the report added.

Guidelines given by the WHO for survivors of the deadly disease include counselling for them and their sexual partners to ensure safer sexual practices until their semen has twice tested negative to prevent transmission.

EBOLA SURVIVOR

"Male Ebola survivors should be offered semen testing at three months after onset of disease, and then, for those who test positive, every month thereafter until their semen tests negative for virus twice by RT-PCR, with an interval of one week between tests," the WHO guidelines following this year's outbreak say.

The survivors of the Ebola virus disease are also advised abstain from all types of sex, or observe safer sex through correct and consistent condom use until their semen has twice tested negative. After this, they can however safely resume normal sexual activity.

"Until such time as their semen has twice tested negative for Ebola, survivors should practice good hand and personal hygiene by immediately and thoroughly washing with soap and water after any physical contact with semen, including after masturbation. During this period, used condoms should be handled safely, and safely disposed of, so as to prevent contact with seminal fluids," the guidelines continue.

The WHO however recommends that people recovering from the disease and have tested negative for the virus should not be kept in isolation.

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