BRAMPTON, Ont. – A patient at a hospital near Toronto has been isolated as a precautionary measure after showing flu-like symptoms similar to those characteristic of the Ebola virus, a public health official said Friday.
Dr. Eileen de Villa with Peel Public Health said the steps were taken because the patient at Brampton Civic Hospital recently travelled to Nigeria, which has been hit with an outbreak of the disease.
“Because there are some health concerns ongoing in West Africa, as a precautionary measure the hospital has put in heightened infection control measures, including isolating the patient,” she said in an interview.
De Villa said the patient is showing a fever and other flu-like symptoms but cautioned there has been no diagnosis yet.
“The hospital has to do its patient care work and diagnostic work in order to confirm what the exact diagnosis is.”
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins, who is also a doctor with a background in public health, issued a statement expressing confidence in the province’s ability to deal with any possible Ebola cases. He also noted Ebola symptoms are similar with a number of other diseases.
That confidence was echoed in a statement issued by Dr. Graham Pollett, Ontario’s Interim Chief Medical Officer of Health.
“Our hospitals have sophisticated infection control systems and procedures in place that are designed to limit the spread of infection, protect health care workers, and provide the best care possible for the patient,” he said.
“To date, there are no confirmed cases of Ebola in Ontario and the risk to Ontarians remains very low,” he added.
Ebola is a rare and severe disease that can infect both humans and non-human primates. The virus is contagious and is spread by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids from a sick person.
In its early stages Ebola has non-specific symptoms similar to the flu or malaria, which is common in parts of Africa. The virus causes symptoms including fever, vomiting, muscle pain and bleeding and is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids like blood, sweat, urine, saliva and diarrhea.
The latest Ebola outbreak is the largest and longest ever recorded for the disease, which has a death rate of about 50 per cent and has so far killed at least 961 people, according to the World Health Organization.
It emerged in Guinea in March and has since spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria — which on Friday declared a state of emergency because of the virus.
There have been false alarms about Ebola in places like Britain and Hong Kong.
The United States has investigated upwards of 22 people but to date had no confirmed cases from within the country. Two American aid workers infected while caring for patients in Liberia are being treated at an Atlanta hospital with an experimental Ebola therapy.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is advising Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone due to the outbreak, but has issued a statement saying the risk of Ebola to Canada is very low.
It says travellers to Nigeria should practise special precautions such as avoiding direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids of people with Ebola virus or unknown illnesses, among other steps.
The World Health Agency on Friday declared the outbreak to be an international public health emergency that requires an extraordinary response to stop its spread.
The organization said countries without Ebola should heighten their surveillance and treat any suspected cases as a health emergency.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have already elevated their Ebola response to the highest level and have recommended against travelling to West Africa.
— By Will Campbell in Toronto with files from Helen Branswell and the Associated Press