Ebola is only known to transfer via bodily fluids but it can survive outside the human body for several hours and is further confirmed to survive in bodily fluids outside a host for several days. The common flu is able to survive for three days outside the body while Ebola can survive for up to 6 days according to the CDC (CDC Website:”Several Days”). By contrast HIV can only survive without a host for a few minutes in addition to requiring a high viral load for transmission.
The virus is susceptible to UV and rapidly becomes inactive upon exposure to sunlight when not surrounded by bodily fluids. Multiple studies have confirmed that the virus deteriorates upon being dried. When the ambulance collected the first American patient from his apartment he vomited on the way to the ambulance which was allegedly only cleaned several days later leaving multiple people concerned that the virus may be transmitted to pets or residents in the area. Dogs are known carriers of the Ebola virus and likely carriers in an urban setting where pets are common.
The virus is able to survive for particularly long periods at low temperatures. In one experiment the virus remained infectious for up to 5 weeks at 4 degrees Celsius. Ebola outbreaks have historically occurred in Africa where temperatures that low are uncommon and rarely last for more than a few hours even during the harshest of winters. The upcoming winter in America could change the dynamics of transmission during the snow season if the outbreak is not contained.
Ebola is an incredibly infectious virus with a single particle required for successful infection of a host. The virus is sensitive to several detergents including bleach and chlorine making basic hygiene the first line defense against transmission. Avoiding infected patients and minimizing contact with people are common methods used to stop the spread of the virus.