Canada to begin 'targeted temperature' screening amid Ebola outbreak
Canada is going to start “targeted temperature” screening of travellers arriving from countries affected by the Ebola outbreak, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said Wednesday.
Ambrose made the announcement during daily question period, in response to a query from the opposition about Canada’s ability to contain potential Ebola cases on Canadian soil.
“Can the minister of health tell us exactly what is Canada’s level of preparedness for containment of possible cases of Ebola, including access to vaccines and treatment here in Canada?” Liberal MP Hedy Fry asked.
Ambrose responded that “Canada’s preparedness is high,” and noted that travellers from West Africa are already being identified and asked questions about their health.
“Our government will be taking the additional step of doing targeted temperature screens,” Ambrose continued. “We will do whatever is necessary to protect Canadians.”
A statement from Canada’s chief public health officer to CTVNews.ca said any travellers from West Africa who show signs of illness or indicate that they have had contact with someone who is sick, will be referred to a quarantine officer from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“Quarantine officers have the necessary training and equipment, including temperature-monitoring devices, to conduct a health assessment and determine whether additional health measures are required,” the statement said.
“Should these travellers identify themselves in this manner, a temperate check will now be administered.”
The statement does not indicate at which entry points the temperature checks will be available. However, it notes that international border crossings to Canada “are monitored 24/7,” and says that PHAC has increased its presence at Canadian airports to help screen travellers from Ebola-affected regions.
There are also no direct flights into Canada from any countries affected by the outbreak.
The risk Ebola poses to Canadians “has not changed and remains very low,” the statement concludes.
The move follows a similar one in the United States, where public health officials announced additional screening at five airports that receive the majority of travellers from countries affected by the deadly outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security said enhanced screening will begin at New York’s JFK International Airport on Saturday. The new screening measures will be implemented next week at Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O’Hare and Atlanta International.
These five airports receive more than 94 per cent of travellers from three of the countries most affected by the outbreak: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The new measures calls for all passengers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to be escorted to a special area set aside for screening.
Passengers will be observed “for signs of illness,” and will be asked a series of questions about their health and potential exposure to Ebola. Medical staff will also take passengers’ temperatures with non-contact thermometers.
Any passengers with symptoms such as a fever and who indicate they may have come in contact with the virus will undergo a public health assessment at a CDC quarantine station. They will be referred to the “appropriate public health authority” if they need further evaluation or monitoring.
“Entry screening is part of a layered process that includes exit screening and standard public health practices such as patient isolation and contact tracing in countries with Ebola outbreaks,” the CDC said in a statement. “Successful containment of the recent Ebola outbreaks in Nigeria and (Democratic Republic of the Congo) demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach.”
The new measures in North America follow moves in the affected countries to screen all outbound passengers for symptoms of Ebola. Primary exit screening includes a health questionnaire, a visual assessment for symptoms, and a body-temperature reading.
According to the CDC, 36,000 people have been screened leaving Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the two months since exit screening for Ebola was implemented. Of the 77 people who were prohibited from boarding a flight, none tested positive for the Ebola virus.
To date, Ebola has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa and infected at least twice that, according to the World Health Organization. On Wednesday, officials in Dallas confirmed that a Liberian man who arrived in the city last month had died of the virus. He was the first Ebola case diagnosed in North America.