How long does the ebola virus live on a surface?


Fears are soaring after NYC got news of a doctor testing positive for Ebola on Thursday. And on top of the diagnosis, it was revealed that 33-year-old Dr. Craig Spencer went bowling and rode the subway before he came down with a fever Thursday morning. As a result, three people are quarantined -- one of those people being the doctor's fiancée. Still, officials are warning people not to panic.

The New York Times published an interesting piece on Ebola facts and how many have been treated for the deadly virus outside of Africa, including who has recovered, who are still in treatment and, sadly, who has died. The WHO estimates that the number of new Ebola cases could reach 10,000 per week by December.

This begs the question -- just how long does the Ebola virus live on a surface like a handrail or a bowling ball? According to the Centers for Disease Control, Ebola on dry surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops, can survive for several hours; however, the virus in body fluids (such as blood) can survive up to several days at room temperature. The CDC also clarifies that unlike respiratory illnesses like measles or chickenpox, which can be transmitted by virus particles that remain suspended in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with body fluids of a person who has symptoms of Ebola disease.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo have urged residents not to panic -- but that's easier said than done. If a person infected with the Ebola virus rides the subway and has a body fluid (such as mucus from sneezing) on his or her hand, and then touches the railing on a subway, the virus can live up to several hours. How many subway riders pass through and touch that same railing in several hours in a city of 8 million people?

The World Health Organization conservatively counts the number of Ebola cases at 9,936 worldwide. The number is a conservative one because WHO spokesman Dan Epstein said "We don't really know how many deaths there have been, because there are a lot of people who have died alone ... or out in the bush."

Even as fear spreads, officials say that there is no need for widespread panic. Just be careful to wash your hands, especially after being in crowded, public places such as public transportation sites and airports.

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