The Ebola narrative has now come full circle with scientists from the Institute of Medicine (IoM) hinting that it might be possible for the hemorrhagic disease to transfer directly through the skin. Thomas Ksiarek from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) says viral skin penetration has not been officially dismissed as a possible mode of transmission, and that liquids like bleach and hand sanitizer could increase this transmission risk.
Speaking before a workshop at the National Academy, a panel of scientists vocalized concerns about Ebola's capacity to absorb into skin. Ksiarek, a hemorrhagic fever expert who helped co-lead a workshop session on Ebola's transmission routes, explained that science has not ruled out skin absorption as one such route. And since both hand sanitizer and bleach tend to make the skin more absorbent, the use of these products to thwart Ebola could make a person more susceptible to the disease.
"Does bleach or hand sanitizer make the skin more susceptible" to being penetrated by Ebola? This is one of the many questions "that has to be asked," in Ksiarek's opinion.
Ebola may still spread without symptoms, says infectious disease doctor
The federal government still maintains that Ebola is only transmissible when an infected person starts "showing symptoms." But this dubious prerequisite is likely also a misnomer, as so-called "subclinical transmission" is still a possibility, according to Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah.
In his view, science has failed to establish a definitive threshold for when an infected person actually becomes infectious to others. It is also unknown whether the mode of transmission, and which bodily fluids are involved, makes any difference in the amount of time between initial exposure and the development of symptoms