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Study Shows that Ebola Can Survive in Victims' Bodies for 7 Days after Death

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In a study done by researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), swabs and tissue samples from the bodies of deceased Ebola-infected monkeys showed that the Ebola virus can stay alive for up to 7 days in a dead victim. The researchers also found that non-infectious viral genetic material (RNA) can remain for up to 70 days after death.

This study confirms the importance of safe handling and burial of the bodies of Ebola victims. In the West African countries affected by the current Ebola outbreak, it is customary for members of a dead person's family or community to be involved in the washing and handling of the body in preparation for burial. When the body belongs to a victim of Ebola, this religious and cultural tradition can unfortunately help spread the disease. According to Dr. Pierre Formenty, a World Health Organization (WHO) expert on Ebola, at least 20% of new infections occur during burials of people who died from Ebola virus disease.

For more details about the study, please read Postmortem Stability of Ebola Virus.