Can Ebola spread through the air?
Ebola virus disease is not transmitted through the air and does not spread through casual contact, such as being near an infected person. Unlike respiratory illnesses, which can spread by particles that remain in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, Ebola is spread by direct contact with body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola.
Body fluids that can transmit Ebola include:
- Breast milk
Evidence suggests that Ebola is first introduced into the human population through handling or eating certain infected mammals such as monkeys, fruit bats, forest antelope and porcupines. Ebola is then spread from human to human through direct contact with the body fluids of another infected person. There is no evidence that mosquitoes or other insects can transmit Ebola virus.
People infected with Ebola aren't contagious unless they have symptoms. If a person sick with Ebola coughs or sneezes, and saliva or mucus touches another person's eyes, nose, mouth, or an open cut or wound, these fluids may spread Ebola.
Handling objects that have been contaminated with body fluids from a person who is sick with or who has died from Ebola virus may also spread the disease.
Feb. 27, 2020
Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Ebola virus disease: Transmission. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/index.html?s_cid=cs_3923. Accessed Jan. 25, 2016.
- Ebola virus disease. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/. Accessed Jan. 25, 2016.
- Ebola virus disease: Q&As on transmission. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/qas.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2016.
- Bray, M, et al. Epidemiology and pathogenesis of Ebola virus disease. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Jan. 25, 2016.
- Shultz JM, et al. Distinguishing epidemiological features of the 2013–2016 West Africa Ebola virus disease outbreak. Disaster Health. 2016;3:78.