As the number of confirmed cases of the Ebola virus in West Africa nears 9,000, many are questioning what would happen if the virus became airborne.
“At this time we have no evidence for airborne transmission,” Dr. David Sanders, professor of biological science at Purdue University told Fox & Friends Wednesday.
However, Sanders cautioned that the possibility of the virus mutating to become airborne cannot be ruled out, adding that there is a non-zero percent probability of it happening.
“Our own research that we published with our collaborators, demonstrates that Ebola has the inherent capacity to enter lung tissue, human lung tissue, just as influenza does,” Sanders said.
“So it cannot be ruled out that it can acquire the capacity to go into the lung, from the airway side,” he said, adding that at this point there is no suggestion that the virus has already mutated to be able to do so.
“I can’t put a number on how possible it is, but the most important message is the longer the epidemic goes on, the more cases we have, the more likely it becomes,” Sanders said.
In September, Canadian researchers said their research found the strain of Ebola afflicting West Africa can be transmitted between humans by breathing.
“The possibility of it becoming airborne could result in a global spread of the disease resulting in [an] unprecedented number of deaths worldwide – it is more than prudent to heavily invest in controlling the number of new patients infected by this disease,” Francis Smart, econometrics research assistant told WND.com.
However, many research teams and doctors refute these findings.
“In all the outbreaks that have happened previously, there’s never been evidence that Ebola ever spread by an airborne route from human to human,” Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, chief of communicable disease epidemiology and immunization of public health in Seattle and King County, Washington, told FoxNews.com.
Ebola can be transmitted through contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of a person who is sick with the disease, and manifesting symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).