An international study has questioned the incubation period of 21 days for the ebola virus disease (EVD), fixed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States.
At present, a person who has been in contact with people infected with Ebola are quarantined for 21 days.
The study, published on Tuesday in Plos Current, a medical journal dedicated to infectious diseases outbreak, suggests that 21 days may not be enough to completely prevent the spread of the virus. Experts say there is a fair chance someone could be infected even after the 21-day quarantine.
Dr Charles Hass, the author of the study, said there could be up to a 12 % chance of a person being infected even after the 21-day quarantine.
“While the 21-day quarantine value, currently used, may have been based on interpretation of data from the previous two outbreaks of EVD, this work suggests reconsideration is in order and that 21 days might not be sufficiently protective of public health,” Haas said in his study.
The first EVD outbreak was reported in 1976 in Zaire and then in 2000 in Congo in West Africa. The current outbreak in West Africa has reported 8,997 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases in seven affected countries – Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the USA – as of October 12. As many as 4,493 people have died because of the disease, according to WHO.
“The study raises a very critical concern about the disease and its subsequent management. A lot still remains unknown about Ebola. As far as 21 days of incubation is concerned, it applies to only a certain set of bodily fluids,” said Dr Om Srivastava, infectious disease expert at Jaslok Hospital.
“Sperm can contain the virus for a period of three to six months even after a person has been cured of EVD. The 21-day quarantine period remains ambiguous and we need more research to conclusively establish its basis,” added Dr Srivastava.