Ebola Virus Can Last in Semen For More than a Year and a Half

ebola virus test
Disease Research

A new analysis of Ebola has confirmed some shocking and surprising news: the virus can stay within the body, particularly within male semen, for a year and a half after recovering from an infection. This means that it is possible for the disease to be sexually transmitted and for this method to trigger another outbreak, especially in vulnerable communities in West Africa. [1]

The study involved 429 men in Liberia seen between July 2015 and May 2016. This was part of the Liberian government’s Men’s Health Screening Program (MHSP) and was the first program in the country that tested semen for the virus.

Of the 429 men studied, 38 men were found to be carrying Ebola. 24 men’s semen tested positive for the virus a year after their recovery, and one man tested positive 565 days after his symptoms disappeared. That is, shockingly, more than a year and a half later.

After this discovery, men in Liberia over the age of 15 who have survived Ebola were invited to have their semen tested to see if they are still carriers. If they are, they receive sexual education pertaining to how to limit their ability to transmit the disease to partners as well as free condoms that help them have safer sex. [2]

Dr. Moses Soka, coordinator of the Ebola Virus Disease Survivor Clinical Care at the Liberian Ministry of Health said of the study:

“Before this outbreak, scientists believed that Ebola virus could be found in semen for three months after recovery. With this study, we now know that virus may persist for a year or longer.”

However, the CDC states that even though some men test positive for the virus, there is still no way to know if they are capable of spreading it. Still, it is recommended that they continue to use protection or abstain from sex until they are able to produce semen that does not contain a trace of the virus.

Men who participate in the Liberian MHSP “graduate” from it when they are able to provide two clean semen samples. [3]

The study currently doesn’t answer every question about Ebola, but it does, indeed, help inform health officials how it spreads and ways to curb another outbreak.


[1] Chicago Tribune

[3] Huffington Post