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The CDC’s website warns saliva, sweat, and mucus can transmit Ebola. However the agency’s head, Dr. Thomas Frieden seems unable to answer if sneezing can cause the disease to be passed between people.

Dr. Thomas Frieden: Well actually, Sanjay and I, if one of us had Ebola, the other would not be a contact right now. Because we’re not in contact. Just talking to someone is not a way to get infected. It’s not like the flu, not like the common cold. It requires direct physical contact.

CNN host Michaela Pereira: But if he sneezes on you, it’s a different story.

CNN’s Sanjay Gupta: I am within three feet of you. Wouldn’t I be considered a higher risk? My understanding reading your guidelines, sir, is that within three feet or direct contact — if I were to shake your hand, for example — would both qualify as being contact.

Frieden: We look at each situation individually and we assess it based on how sick the individual is and what the nature of the contact is. And certainly if you’re within 3 feet, that’s a situation we’d want to be concerned about. But in this case, where we haven’t hugged — we haven’t shaken hands — we have not had any contact that would allow either of our body fluids to be in contact with the other person.

Gupta: So, to Michaela’s point, the reason we talk about coughing and sneezing not being a concern — if you were to have coughed on me — you’re saying that would not be of concern?

Frieden: We would look at that situation very closely…

If it can be spread by a sneeze (or a cough,) than it’s technically airborne. Simply washing your hands won’t keep you or me safe should this becomes a pandemic.

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