Via Vox.com, a report by Susannah Locke: Can you get Ebola through the air? Here's what the science says. Excerpt:
Ebola is not like the flu. You're not going to catch the disease from simply being across the room from someone who has it.
Basically every health agency in the world agrees on this point. In order to catch Ebola, you have to come in contact with bodily fluids — such as sweat, saliva, vomit, or diarrhea — of someone who already has Ebola and is exhibiting symptoms. (A person who is infected but not yet showing symptoms generally isn't infectious.)
And yet, remarkably, many readers have been unconvinced by this point. They keep e-mailing and pointing to a 2012 paper finding that, in a single laboratory study, Ebola spread from pigs to monkeys that hadn't directly touched each other. Some readers claim this paper is proof that Ebola can travel miles through the air to kill people.
Those claims are wrong — but what does the study really say? To find out, I called up the first author of that study, Hana Weingartl, a scientist at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Why pigs are different from people
Here's what actually happened in the 2012 experiment. Six piglets with Ebola were housed next to four monkeys separated in cages. A buffer zone of roughly 8 inches separated the pigs from the monkeys so that they couldn't touch each other directly. Then, two of the monkeys got Ebola fast enough that it was clear that they caught it from the pigs.
But just because this happened between pigs and monkeys doesn't mean it's likely to happen between people. The big difference is that pigs cough and sneeze a lot when they're sick with Ebola — way more than people do.
"You cannot take the pigs and think that it will go the same way in humans," Weingartl said. "One has to consider the species. For pigs, the [Ebola] infection ends up as an infection of the lungs — they have high amounts of the virus in the respiratory tract and so they cough it out. Or when they sneeze or squeal, it just gets out of the lungs. So the virus is in the air directly."
But Ebola affects primates in a different way, Weingartl says. For them, "the main target organ is the liver, so they have high amounts of the virus in the blood and in the feces. They will not be coughing out the virus. And that’s why indirect transmission without contact is probably not happening [among primates and humans]."