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Ebola Virus: Top Questions From WebMD’s Live Event

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Glatter: It is unlikely to transmit the Ebola virus by just casual contact on an airplane. The virus is spread by close and direct, intimate contact. That said, I would wash my hands thoroughly, and avoid touching my eyes, nose, or mouth. The virus is not known to have sustained airborne or droplet transmission [Editor’s Note: The virus is not spread through the air or through droplets – for example, if someone coughs or sneezes near you], and is much less contagious than the measles or influenza. If you do use a restroom, make sure you thoroughly clean your hands after touching any surfaces in the restroom, and remember not to touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.

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.

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