Uganda’s Health Ministry has advised Ebola survivors to abstain from sex for at least three months after being discharged from health facilities, unless they use contraceptives.
This follows fears that the killer virus can still be transmitted even if victims had initially been given clean bills of health.
By and large, Ebola is transmitted via bodily fluids such as blood and saliva but there have been instances in which scientists have detected the virus in the semen of male survivors, months after making full recoveries.
“Before returning home, Ebola patients will have their blood tested in the laboratory to ensure the virus is no longer in their body. However, people who have recovered from the illness should not have sex for at least three months unless they use condoms,” said the Health Ministry as quoted by Ugandan local daily The Monitor.
According to Dr. Ataro Ayella, a clinical epidemiologist who has first-hand experience handling the virus, the disease can still be spread even if survivors have no visible symptoms of infection.
“The nature of the virus gives it the ability to survive for long in reserves in the body (brain, spinal fluid, semen, placenta and eyes) even when the patient is declared cured. The virus can be stored alive in the semen for long since it is a conducive environment for its survival, unlike other body fluids,” said Ayella.
Ugandans have since urged President Yoweri Museveni’s government to sensitise locals on the directive to abstain in order to minimize the risk of increased infections.
A total of 36 people in Uganda have so far been suspected of being exposed to the virus, 23 of which have succumbed to it according to official government data.
Kenya’s Ministry of Health has since placed 20 counties on high alert for Ebola virus infection as cases in Uganda continue rising.
Acting Health Director General Dr. Patrick Amoth stated on Tuesday that the counties of Busia, Nakuru, Kiambu, Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Makueni, Taita taveta, Mombasa, Kwale, and Kericho are at risk of high infection from the virus that was first reported in Uganda on September 19, 2022.
Bungoma, Siaya, Migori, Homa Bay, Kisumu, Trans Nzoia, West Pokot, Turkana, and Uasin Gishu were also placed on high alert.