Transmission of the virus

The Ebola virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals and then spreads through populations by human-to-human transmission via direct contact with infected bodily fluids, the most infectious being blood, faeces and vomit.

No cases of transmission through the air have been reported (for example due to sneezing).

In addition, the virus is not transmitted by

  • handling money,
  • swimming pool water,
  • mosquitoes.

Physical contact

The Ebola virus is transmitted by direct contact with infected bodily fluids:

  • blood,
  • faeces,
  • vomit,
  • biological liquids or tissues from infected subjects and animals, either ill or dead.

The Ebola virus has also been detected in

  • mother's milk,
  • urine
  • and sperm.

The virus can remain present in the sperm of a convalescent male for between 70 and 90 days.

Bush meat

Another possible source is the consumption of meat from wild animals (bush meat). Indeed, the current outbreaks of Ebola probably originated from contact between humans and wild animals, during hunting and the slaughter of infected wild animals, and then preparation of the meat from these animals (bush meat), followed by human-to-human transmission.

Funerary rights

Funerary rights which involve the relations and friends of the deceased who died as a result of Ebola coming into direct contact with the corpse can also play a major role in the transmission of the Ebola virus.

Saliva and tears

Saliva and tears can also pose a risk. However, studies involving these bodily fluids have been carried out on very small samples and the scientific data obtained were inconclusive. In studies on saliva, the virus was most often detected in patients at an advanced stage of the illness. The whole living virus has never been isolated in sweat.

Surfaces and objects

The Ebola virus can also be transmitted indirectly, through contact with surfaces and objects that have been contaminated by bodily fluids. In this case, the risk of transmission is low and can be reduced still further by appropriate cleaning and disinfection. Interim recommendation on the sexual transmission of the Ebola virus disease.

Last update