A 26-year-old Indian man is being kept in isolation in New Delhi more than a month after he recovered from Ebola because his semen tested positive for the disease, India's Ministry of Health said Tuesday.
The man arrived in New Delhi on Nov. 10 from Liberia, where he had been treated for Ebola and released on Sept. 30, according to a statement from Indian health officials. While going through mandatory airport screening on his arrival in New Delhi, the man told officials about his disease history and showed them a "certificate of medical clearance" from the Liberian government, which said he had "successfully undergone care and treatment related to Ebola Virus Disease" and that he had subsequently tested negative for Ebola in lab tests.
Still, Indian health officials said, the man was isolated at the airport "as a matter of abundant caution." Three blood samples taken from the man over the next three days tested negative for the Ebola virus.
Officials then decided to test additional bodily fluids for signs of the disease. A semen sample from Nov. 17 tested positive for Ebola, and another test confirmed the results.
"It is a known fact that during convalescence from Ebola Virus Disease, persons continue to shed virus in body fluids for variable periods," officials said. The statement noted that in some cases, the virus can be present in men's semen for up to 90 days after they recover from Ebola.
According to the World Health Organization, men can transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovering from Ebola. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that men recovering from Ebola either abstain from sex, including oral sex, for at least three months or use condoms to help prevent the spread of the disease.
Officials say the man isn't showing any symptoms of Ebola, but they plan to keep him under isolation at a special airport health facility until all of his body fluids test negative for the disease and he's determined to be "medically fit" to be discharged.
"This would rule out even the remote possibility of spread of this disease by the sexual route," the Ministry of Health said.