Claim: The CDC and CIDRAP have admitted that Ebola is now airborne.
Example: [Collected via email, October 2014]
Origins: In the summer of 2014, rumors began to circulate in e-mail
On 6 October, CNN published an article about the possibility of Ebola mutating. The network quoted director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota
This mode of transmission has not been observed during extensive studies of the Ebola virus over several decades.
Common sense and observation tell us that spread of the virus via coughing or sneezing is rare, if it happens at all. Epidemiological data emerging from the outbreak are not consistent with the pattern of spread seen with airborne viruses, like those that cause measles and chickenpox, or the airborne bacterium that causes tuberculosis.
Theoretically, wet and bigger droplets from a heavily infected individual, who has respiratory symptoms caused by other conditions or who vomits violently, could transmit the virus — over a short distance — to another nearby person.
This could happen when virus-laden heavy droplets are directly propelled, by coughing or sneezing (which does not mean airborne transmission) onto the mucus membranes or skin with cuts or abrasions of another person.
WHO is not aware of any studies that actually document this mode of transmission. On the contrary, good quality studies from previous Ebola outbreaks show that all cases were infected by direct close contact with symptomatic patients.
That virus has probably circulated through many billions of birds for at least two decades. Its mode of transmission remains basically unchanged.
Speculation that Ebola virus disease might mutate into a form that could easily spread among humans through the air is just that: speculation, unsubstantiated by any evidence.
This kind of speculation is unfounded but understandable as health officials race to catch up with this fast-moving and rapidly evolving outbreak.
"That is not to say it's impossible that it could change [to become airborne]," he continued. "That would be the worst-case scenario. We would know that by looking at ... what is happening in Africa. That is why we have scientists from the CDC on the ground tracking that."
A Twitter user with the name @UnivMinnNews, which uses the U logo but is not an official university account, spread the claim — citing an article in the alternative news site Inquisitr. That story cited a commentary posted on the website of the U's Center for Infectious Disease Control and Policy (CIDRAP).
The published commentary, however, doesn't make that claim, U officials pointed out. It only states that "people should understand the potential for a virus to become airborne." And while it was posted on the CIDRAP website, it was written by an unaffiliated researcher from Chicago.
"CIDRAP is not saying [Ebola] is airborne," spokeswoman Caroline Marin said. "There is always the possibility that diseases can mutate."
Last updated: 16 October 2014
Cohen, Elizabeth. "Ebola In The Air? A Nightmare That Could Happen." CNN 6 October 2014. Maron, Dina Fine. "Fact or Fiction?: The Ebola Virus Will Go Airborne." Scientific American. 16 September 2014. Olson, Jeremy. "University of Minnesota Knocks Down Claim of New Ebola Risks." [Minneapolis] Star Tribune. 16 October 2014. Viebeck, Elise. "CDC: Airborne Ebola Possible But Unlikely." The Hill. 7 October 2014.