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Ebola Virus: Top Questions From WebMD’s Live Event


Question: What can kill the Ebola virus on surfaces?

Adalja: Ordinary hospital environmental cleaning substances can inactivate the Ebola virus. Bleach (10%), hospital grade phenol, and hospital grade quaternary ammonium compounds can be used. Similarly, ordinary cleaning agents on airplanes can be used.

Question: Why is the U.S. not making the ZMapp (an experimental serum given to two American patients) available to the West African nations, knowing that they are the worst hit? The drug has not been approved, but it’s been tested on the U.S. citizens, (so) why not give it to the people that need it before it becomes a world epidemic?

Geisbert: The issue regarding making ZMapp available to West African nations is quite complicated. There have been no phase I clinical trials yet, and ZMapp has not been approved by the FDA for use in humans in the U.S. Licensure can be a fairly long process. It could of course be approved for compassionate use by the FDA for use in the U.S. Things get really complex when you talk about using it in outbreak settings in other countries like in West Africa. For one thing, the involved countries would need to make a request from the companies. The other issue is that it would take some time to make enough ZMapp to handle an outbreak of this size.

Question: Can birds or insects carry the virus to different regions, or is infection exclusive to human beings only?

Smith: Outbreaks of Ebola happen when a person is infected by contact with an infected animal. Bats are known to be one of the animals that can transmit the infection. But you have to come in contact with body fluids or tissues from the animal. Once a person is infected with Ebola from an animal, they can then transmit the infection to other humans, and that's how an outbreak starts. At this point we don't think insects serve as a source of Ebola.


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