Can Ebola virus infect via the skin?

SkinI received this question about Ebola virus infection via email:

Can you become infected if infected droplet lands on your skin even if there is no abrasion on the skin? I am now hearing this, which surprises me. The virus can enter through the actual skin and does not need mucus membrane to enter?

The skin of most animals is an effective barrier against viral infections. The outer layer of human skin, called the stratum corneum, consists of a layer of dead, keratinized cells (illustrated). Viruses cannot replicate in, or be transported across, dead cells. Therefore any virus that lands on the skin cannot simply replicate in the outer layer or be transported to the underlying living cells.

However, viruses can pass through the dead layer of the skin through cuts or abrasions. Many activities, such as shaving, or even scratching, lead to microabrasions. It is relatively easy to breach the dead layer of cells with a fingernail, and such abrasions cannot be seen.

A patient in the late stages of Ebola virus infection (such as the Dallas patient) is shedding high amounts of virus particles in body fluids. If virus-laden droplets land on the skin, the virus can readily enter via cuts or abrasions. Even if the skin is intact, the droplets could be inadvertently transferred to mucous membranes of the eye, nose, or mouth, initiating infection. For this reason it is important that the skin be entirely covered when caring for Ebola virus infected patients.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Roger M

    I do find it incredible that some people want to focus on blaming politicians on the Ebola epidemic rather than get educated about the ebola virus and understand the symptoms.
    Early detection can save your life!

    http://whatisebolavirusinfection.com/what-are-the-symptoms-of-ebola.htm

  • spock

    The crazy thing was watching some of the ONG workers (and some brave
    missionaries) taking care of infected (or potentially infected) people
    with a cotton mask only.
    (i.e.) See the poor spanish missionary died
    few weeks ago while on duty. Even more crazy the fact that his body was
    returned to Spain (WHY !?!?!?)

  • pk

    No, it cannot infect through the skin. The human or any animal skin is practically impregnable to pathogens. Contrary to what you hear Ebola is not very infectious and needs repeated contact with very sick people.

  • charlie wenger

    Can you
    become infected if infected droplet lands on your skin even if there is no
    abrasion on the skin?

    Yes : The
    lytic cycle is the process in which a virus overtakes a cell and uses the
    cellular machinery of its host to reproduce.

    A virus Ebola
    virus spore is dormant until triggered by a mutated cell, even if there is no abrasion on the skin.Iif you sanitize with bleach you’re mutating, skin, eyes, nose and lungs.
    The Ebola virus has not changed but the protocol producers: Wow. That’s some
    weapons-grade stupid crazy there.

    Sources

    The structures of tobacco mosaic virus and
    influenza virus

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  • Not Charlie

    Charlie, you need to learn more about the topic before you jump to conclusions:
    Ebola is a small RNA virus that is completely dependent on a living host cell.

    Viruses do not form spores. You are getting viruses mixed-up with bacteria.

    Ebola doesn’t need a mutated cell to replicate.

  • Jarrett miller

    The knew stem cell research should stop the ebola victims from dying more frequently because ebola causes eternal bleeding from the inside. The stem research which will keep them stabile so doctors can experiment with them and find antibiotics that works against the virus. From jarrett miller

  • If don’t, why do all medical team wrap themselves up while contacting with patients?