The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
As has often been reported, Ebola apparently can't be spread through the air simply by suspended particles remaining in the air after a cough or sneeze. But if infected sweat, mucus or saliva gets on doorknobs or countertops, the Ebola virus can be spread "for several hours" by someone touching the surface and then touching their eyes, nose, mouth or an open cut. Presumably it can be spread by handshaking as well, if the infected person had gotten his saliva or mucus on his hands. Not terribly reassuring, sad to say. Here's the CDC Q&A.
Q&As on Transmission
Ebola has been detected in blood and many body fluids. Body fluids include saliva, mucus, vomit, feces, sweat, tears, breast milk, urine and semen.
Can Ebola spread by coughing? By sneezing?
Unlike respiratory illnesses like measles or chickenpox, which can be transmitted by virus particles that remain suspended in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with body fluids of a person who has symptoms of Ebola disease. Although coughing and sneezing are not common symptoms of Ebola, if a symptomatic patient with Ebola coughs or sneezes on someone, and saliva or mucus come into contact with that person's eyes, nose or mouth, these fluids may transmit the disease.
What does "direct contact" mean?
Direct contact means that body fluids (blood, saliva, mucus, vomit, urine, or feces) from an infected person (alive or dead) have touched someone's eyes, nose or mouth or an open cut, wound or abrasion.
How long does Ebola live outside the body?
Ebola is killed with hospital-grade disinfectants (such as household bleach). Ebola dried on surfaces such as doorknobs and countertops can survive for several hours; however, virus in body fluids (such as blood) can survive up to several days at room temperature …
If someone survives Ebola, can he or she still spread the virus?
Once someone recovers from Ebola, they can no longer spread the virus. However, Ebola virus has been found in semen for up to 3 months. People who recover from Ebola are advised to abstain from sex or use condoms for 3 months.
Can Ebola be spread through mosquitoes?
There is no evidence that mosquitoes or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys and apes) have shown the ability to spread and become infected with Ebola virus.
Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.
UPDATE: I've revised the first sentence to expressly note what the quoted CDC text notes, which is that Ebola apparently can't be spread through the air simply by suspended particles remaining in the air after a cough or sneeze. (I had originally just said it "can't be spread through the air by coughing or sneezing.") As later passages in the post make clear, it can be spread through the air if someone sneezes or coughs on someone else, or if infected saliva or mucus is deposited on a surface, and is then picked up by someone else during the virus's survival window.