American researchers in Liberia are staying on to look at survivors of Ebola to determine how common the long term effects are and if these effects can contribute to future outbreaks. Additionally, their research could aid in the ongoing efforts to find an effective preventative vaccine as well as treatment for the Ebola virus.
To do so, the researchers with the assistance of Liberia’s health ministry and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease will study 1,500 Ebola survivors and 6,000 of their close contacts. They will examine their sweat, tears, semen and other bodily fluids for approximately five years.
Long-term, survivors of the Ebola virus can suffer from joint and muscle pain, skin and hair loss, inflammation of the testicles, as well as eye problems ranging from light sensitivity, to iritis and chronic blindness. However, many scientists suspect that in the short term, survivors of Ebola could still carry the virus and infect others through semen, but they have yet to determine how long it remains in the semen.
Although the Ebola virus epidemic is over in Liberia, it is still present in Sierra Leone and Guinea, with 24 cases having been reported in the last week from those two countries. So far, over 27,000 people have been infected since spring 2014 and 11,000 deaths have been confirmed by the World Health Organization with many thousands more that may have gone unrecorded.