Health and Safety Notice

World Health Organization Declares Ebola Outbreak Emergency

As you may be aware there is currently an epidemic outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Wold Health Organization has now declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.  Ebola is a viral hemorrhagic fever spread by direct contact (notairborne) and poses a high mortality rate (55-90%) and is significant risk to human population.

Key messages:

  • While the current assessment by Public Health Canada indicates the risk of an outbreak in Canada remains low, there are still many people who travel to or come in contact with people who travel to the region.  For this reason it is important for all health care professionals to be aware of this epidemic and to be vigilant when dealing with patients with any febrile illness.
  • Ebola presents similar to any viral infection initially with generalized symptoms such as sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headaches and a sore throat. These symptoms can appear two to 21 days after infection.  The key with Ebola is to identify if the person recently traveled to the affected region or likely came in contact with someone who travelled to the region.  However, according to Public Health Ontario the top infectious causes of fever in international travellers includes malaria (20-30%), acute travellers’ diarrhea (10-20%), and respiratory tract infections (10-15%); so there are many differentials that may be causing the illness.
  • We encourage you to work with your hospital occupational health and safety and infection control services  or your  local Public Health unit and review your practices for responding to EVD.  Should you encounter a client/patient who is a risk of having EVD (e.g.: travel to the affected regionand symptoms of infection) please approach your patient utilizing full PPE. .
  • Under the Quarantine Act, travellers are to report to a Canada Borders Services Agent if they are ill upon arrival; and airlines and airport authorities are required to report ill travellers to Quarantine Officers.  Quarantine Officers are active at all ports of entry 24hr x 7d and have authority under the Act to take action to protect the public.
  • There is no vaccine or treatment for Ebola; treatment is isolation and supportive care.  As with all cases of potential infection from any cause, full personal protective equipment with reverse isolation of the patient in certain circumstances is required along with frequent hand washing and disinfection procedures.  Vigilance, PPE and proper hygiene are the keys to prevent infection and protect health care workers.
  • Should the risk of outbreak in North America rise, it is important to remember to obtain information from validated sites such as the Public Health Agency of Canada,  Public Health Ontario, or the World Health Organization.