I was going to make this an update to Dana’s Ebola post about the defiant nurse, but it’s important enough to deserve its own post, I think. The New York Post reports that the CDC has quietly changed its guidelines to specify that Ebola can spread through the air via droplets from a sneeze:
Ebola is a lot easier to catch than health officials have admitted — and can be contracted by contact with a doorknob contaminated by a sneeze from an infected person an hour or more before, experts told The Post Tuesday.
“If you are sniffling and sneezing, you produce microorganisms that can get on stuff in a room. If people touch them, they could be” infected, said Dr. Meryl Nass, of the Institute for Public Accuracy in Washington, DC.
Nass pointed to a poster the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly released on its Web site saying the deadly virus can be spread through “droplets.”
“Droplet spread happens when germs traveling inside droplets that are coughed or sneezed from a sick person enter the eyes, nose or mouth of another person,” the poster states.
Nass slammed the contradiction.
“The CDC said it doesn’t spread at all by air, then Friday they came out with this poster,” she said. “They admit that these particles or droplets may land on objects such as doorknobs and that Ebola can be transmitted that way.”
Here is the poster, which I have saved in .pdf form in case they try to delete it. Here are a couple of screenshots from it:
It’s not clear to me that this is a change, as claimed by the expert, as I think that the CDC has previously said that Ebola can be transmitted through sneezing on someone. But this poster illustrates that what most people would call an “airborne” transmission (a sneeze) is something CDC defines as “droplet spread” — allowing them to continue to maintain that it does not travel through the air.
This is a rather . . . esoteric distinction for people who are repeatedly told Ebola does not spread through the air. After all, a sneeze travels through the air. Rather far, actually. According to MIT, in fact, sneezes can travel up to 20 feet in the air.
A novel study by MIT researchers shows that coughs and sneezes have associated gas clouds that keep their potentially infectious droplets aloft over much greater distances than previously realized. . . . Smaller droplets (less than 50 µm diameter) can remain suspended in the cloud long enough for the cough to reach heights where ventilation systems can be contaminated (4–6 m).
Also, remember Dr. Craig Spencer? He’s the fella who the New York Times editorial board said was not symptomatic while gallivanting about the city, when the New York Times news pages said he was. Anyway, turns out he initially lied and claimed he had self-quarantined:
The city’s first Ebola patient initially lied to authorities about his travels around the city following his return from treating disease victims in Africa, law-enforcement sources said.
Dr. Craig Spencer at first told officials that he isolated himself in his Harlem apartment — and didn’t admit he rode the subways, dined out and went bowling until cops looked at his MetroCard the sources said.
“He told the authorities that he self-quarantined. Detectives then reviewed his credit-card statement and MetroCard and found that he went over here, over there, up and down and all around,” a source said.
Spencer finally ’fessed up when a cop “got on the phone and had to relay questions to him through the Health Department,” a source said.
He’s reportedly in serious condition.
I can’t see why people are making such a big deal out of the government repeatedly and systematically understating the possible risks of transmission of a deadly disease.