Research shows Ebola virus stays in survivors’ semen for weeks or months

Originally posted on *Mother Jones

Survivors of Ebola often face stigma and fear from community members who worry they might spread the disease after leaving the hospital. These fears are almost entirely misplaced. Once someone has recovered from the virus, they cannot infect others through handshakes, hugs, or kisses. Their sweat isn’t contagious. Even the vomit, urine, and feces of the disease’s survivors has been shown to be Ebola free.

GTWS_sperm

There are, however, a couple important exceptions. In particular, research into past outbreaks shows that the semen of survivors may carry the virus for weeks, or even months, after they recover.

For instance, a 1977 study of an outbreak in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo found Ebola in the semen of one survivor 61 days after the onset of his disease. And a 1999 study found the virus in an Ebola survivor’s semen 82 days after he first became ill. That study recommended that survivors use condoms for “at least” three months after contracting the disease.

A separate 1999 study, backed by the Centers for Disease Control, identified one woman who tested positive for Ebola but never developed symptoms. The researchers concluded that it was unclear if she ever actually contracted the virus, but that it was “possible” that she was infected by a recovered Ebola patient via his semen.

In a statement issued Monday, the World Health Organization echoed these findings, warning that Ebola “can persist in [survivors’] semen for at least 70 days” and that some research even “suggests persistence for more than 90 days.”

The sample sizes for these studies are extremely small, and it’s unclear just how great a risk the semen of surviving men poses in the weeks following their illness. Still, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that they use condoms. And Doctors Without Borders—which has been on the front lines of the current outbreak since its early stages—is distributing condoms to survivors, according to a spokesperson for the group.

Speaking at a United Nations office in Liberia earlier this month, an epidemiologist and WHO consultant from Uganda — a nation that saw its own Ebola outbreak as recently as 2013 — said that sexual transmission could make the disease harder to contain. He criticized public health officials for not doing enough to encourage the use of condoms.

And Semen may not be the only bodily fluid through which a patient recovering from Ebola could pass on the disease. In 2000, researchers tested the fluids of a female Ebola survivor whose blood was already clear of the virus. Fifteen days after first falling ill, Ebola was still found in the woman’s breast milk. Her child eventually died of Ebola, though the researchers could not be certain the child got sick from feeding.

“At any rate,” wrote the researchers, “it seems prudent to advise breastfeeding mothers who survive [Ebola] to avoid breastfeeding for at least some weeks after recovery.”

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Keeping Up with Kegels

Whether you do them for health or pleasure, taking a few minutes a day to do Kegel exercises may be one of the most important activities a woman can do for herself.  If you are unfamiliar with the term “Kegel,” I strongly urge you to take some time and research it on medical sites like MayoClinic.com.

Basically, Kegel exercises are ways to strengthen the pelvic floor through repeated contractions of the muscles in that area.  Performing regular Kegel exercises can reduce involuntary urination, also known as incontinence (never a fun thing), and tighten the vaginal canal (especially beneficial after childbirth).  While I’m choosing to focus on Kegel exercises for women in this blog, men can also perform Kegel exercises to reduce premature ejaculation and increase erection size and potency.

Kegel exercises can be done anywhere at anytime… in fact, I’m doing them now while I write this.  Have you ever stopped urinating midstream?  Then you already know how to do a Kegel exercise.   While sitting or lying down, focus on contracting those same muscles you use to stop peeing.  The result is your pelvic muscles squeezing your urethra and anus.  If your stomach or butt is doing the tightening, then you are working out the wrong part of your body (at least for a Kegel exercise).

When you are certain you are correctly working your pelvic muscles, hold each contraction for 3-4 seconds, then release for the same amount of time.  Repeat 10 or more times per session, 3 times per day – work deep inhales and exhales into it.  Do you feel super relaxed?  That’s an added bonus!

As I mentioned in my recent blog, “An Introduction to Sex Toys,” there are a variety of devices to assist with Kegel exercises, many of which result in a rush of pleasurable sensations throughout the body and mind-blowing orgasms when done correctly.  Ben Wa balls, like Luna Beads from LELO, are one of the most popular types of device.  Upon inserting these weighted balls into your vagina, you begin to instantly engage in Kegel exercises as your pelvic muscles work to keep the balls inside.  Many women experience great pleasure from the feel of the balls moving around.  Though not as discreet as Ben Wa balls, vaginal barbells, such as Betty’s Vaginal Barbell, are phallic shaped devices weighing around one pound and inserted into the vaginal canal.  EVI, a new product from Aneros, stimulates the G-spot when inserted for Kegel exercises, while an additional handle stimulates the clitoris at the same time.

Whether done with the help of devices or on your own, Kegel exercises prove it is possible to mix work and play.  Some of the best orgasms I’ve ever had were a direct result of Kegel exercises – knowing I’m simultaneously bettering my body make it even more arousing.

xo,
jd