A recent scientific analysis has found that Ebola virus can last as long as 565 days in semen.
This is even after recovery from an Ebola infection.
The recent discovery highlights the potential role of intimate relationships in sparking another outbreak, researchers reported on Tuesday.
The study was published in the Lancet Global Health involving 429 men seen between July 2015 and May 2016.
The men were part of the Liberian government’s Men’s Health Screening Program (MHSP), the first national semen testing program for Ebola virus.
Of the participants, 38 men tested positive during the study period.
Within this group, nearly two thirds had semen samples that tested positive for Ebola fragments a year after recovering from disease.
The Ebola virus tended to linger longer in men over age 40, the researchers said.
In one case, Ebola was detected at least 565 days after a man recovered from his illness.
“Before this outbreak, scientists believed that Ebola virus could be found in semen for three months after recovery.
“With this study, we now know that virus may persist for a year or longer,” said Dr. Moses Soka, coordinator of the Ebola Virus Disease Survivor Clinical Care at the Liberian Ministry of Health, who worked on the study.
“This program provides important insights into how long Ebola remains in semen.
“This is a key component to preventing flare-ups of the disease and protecting survivors and their loved ones,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sexual contact with an Ebola survivor in March 2015 resulted in the infection and eventual death of a woman from Monrovia.
This was even after Liberia had been declared free of Ebola.
Tests of the man’s semen showed the presence of Ebola virus 199 days after he first became ill.
WHO advises that all male Ebola survivors be tested 3 months after onset of Ebola symptoms and then monthly thereafter.