Virus Persistence Study

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The storeroom of Virus Persistence Study tent housing the equipment used to collect the various body fluids, including semen and tears. Photograph by Charles Alpren

Before the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, there was limited data on persistence of Ebola virus in body fluids of Ebola survivors and the possibility that the Ebola virus could be sexually transmitted. The Virus Persistence Study, coordinated by the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health, CDC, and WHO, includes testing of body fluids in male and female Ebola survivors to determine how long the virus stays in specific fluids after recovery from the disease. The study is also conducting viability testing to determine if the disease can be transmitted through specific body fluids. The results of the study are expected to be published in 2017.

To convey the risk and encourage behavioral change among Ebola survivors, CDC designed and implemented Ebola virus persistence risk reduction behavioral counseling for male and female Ebola survivors. Counselors taught participants enrolled in the Virus Persistence Study how to correctly use a condom and how to negotiate condom use with a sex partner. The behavioral counseling allowed study staff to translate the study’s body fluid test results into individualized information and preventive action for study participants. 

To educate survivors, the CDC produced the brochure, Ebola Survivors: Read This Before You Have Sex. Researchers learned that Ebola virus might be found in some body fluids, particularly semen, even after a person recovers from Ebola. The recommendation from CDC was for men to use condoms until the virus eventually leaves the semen; information suggested that Ebola virus can stay in the body of a survivor for more than a year. CDC also supports the Ministry of Health’s Men’s Health Screening Program, which provides screening and counseling services for male Ebola survivors, and is an important effort to control future outbreaks.

Redd, John (Interview 2)

Dr. John Redd

Dr. John Redd of CDC's Division of Global Health Protection talks about the results of the Virus Persistence Study

5. The Aftermath of the Epidemic
Virus Persistence Study