African funeral rites are 'superspreaders' of Ebola

2014-10-31 05:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Traditional funeral rites in West Africa that include kissing and touching a dead body are "superspreaders" of Ebola and must be halted, researchers said on Thursday.

If not, Liberia can expect 224 new cases per day by the beginning of December, and 348 new Ebola infections per day by the end of December, according to the study in the journal Science.

"To stem Ebola transmission in Liberia, it is imperative to simultaneously restrict traditional burials, which are effectively serving as superspreader events," it said.

Funeral practices often include washing, touching and kissing bodies that are still capable of transmitting Ebola, and may have particularly high levels of the live virus in excretions.

The findings were based on mathematical modelling done by scientists at Yale University, Oregon State University and the ministry of health in Liberia, the country hardest hit by the current Ebola epidemic.

"It is imperative that funeral transmission be stopped," said Jan Medlock, an assistant professor in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences and an expert in mathematical epidemiology and the evolution of infectious disease.

"The cultural body preparation and funeral practices that are common in West Africa have driven the initial spread of this disease."

The virus has already infected more than 13 000 people in West Africa since the beginning of the year and killed almost 5 000 according to the World Health Organisation.

Ebola is spread through close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or a person who has recently died of the virus.

While it is important to isolate patients, trace their contacts and provide better protection for health care workers, these measures alone are insufficient, the researchers said.

Every two Ebola cases currently result in the infections of three more people in Liberia, the study found.

A better way to safely bury the dead would be to disinfect "the cadaver before placing it in a plastic body bag and doing further disinfecting," said the study.

The authors also called for substantial international aid to help end the outbreak.

Read more on:    liberia  |  ebola  |  research  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.