Why didn’t Thomas Eric Duncan‘s family contract Ebola? Why do some patients recover while others die? Are people with Ebola only contagious when they are dying? Here & Now’s Robin Young had a lot of questions about Ebola, and Dr. Ian Lipkin, an expert in infectious disease, offered some answers.
Interview Highlights: Dr. Ian Lipkin
On whether only people dying of Ebola are contagious
“No that not true. The virus itself does not become more virulent. The virulence is an inherent property of the virus. What happens is that as the illness progresses the amount of virus that is present in the body and in body fluids increases and the capacity to transmit infection, is a function of the amount of virus that’s present. That’s why when someone is in the early stages of infection where there are very small amounts of virus in the body you’re much less likely to have transmission of the virus to another victim, that is to say another human being.”
On whether some people are born immune to Ebola
“I don’t think there is any evidence that there’s any such thing as inborn immunity to Ebola. We don’t fully understand why some people survive and other people die. To some extent, this a function of whether or not you get early care and the only care that we have at present that we know seems to be working is hydration and general support so that your kidneys and your liver and your brain don’t shut. There may be people who have innate resistance to Ebola, we just don’t know enough about that yet.”
- Ian Lipkin, MD, professor of epidemiology, neurology and pathology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. He’s also director of Columbia’s Center for Infection and Immunity.