at , Lexington, 40591 United States
KSE works towards three primary goals: to improve science education standards, to support educators, and to support the teaching of evidence based science.
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Here are the facts. Ebola can, but is extremely unlikely, be spread by droplet route. This means that coughs and sneezes are extremely unlikely to cause infection. Pigs may be an exception. There have been potential infections of monkeys by pigs via droplet exposure. That has never been proven, though, and is only a possibility that can't be completely ruled out, and is only for pigs. There is no evidence that humans have ever passed Ebola via droplet route. There is a major lack of understanding on what differences there are between droplet and airborne transmission. Droplets are, first and foremost, wet. They are large enough that they do not stay suspended in the air for long. Airborne exposure is from dry particles that are small enough that they don't settle easily. The flu virus, for example, can survive drying, but the Ebola virus cannot. For Ebola to be spread by the airborne route, three sets of major mutations would have to occur. First, Ebola would have to mutate in order to A) infect the lungs in a significant manner, which it does not currently do, and B) would have to undergo changes to its coat proteins in a way to be able to infect people via their airways and lungs, as opposed to its current route of infecting via breaks in skin and certain mucous membranes. Finally, C) major changes in the virus to allow it to survive drying. No virus studied has ever undergone such massive changes in infection route. There is no evolutionary pressure for the virus to switch from its currently effective means of infection to a different one. Again, to be able to do this, the virus would have to have major mutations in coat proteins allowing an ability to survive drying, change its route of leaving the body, and change its route of entering the body. The chances of this are non-zero, but are pretty close to it. - RB