Doctors expect Brampton test results Sunday; say Ebola is unlikely
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, August 9, 2014 12:51PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 9, 2014 7:31PM EDT
A Brampton, Ont. man in isolation with a suspected Ebola infection could be sick because of any number of more common, less serious diseases, health experts say.
Canadians will know for certain what the Toronto-area patient has on Sunday, when his blood test results come in.
Early-stage Ebola symptoms – including fever, headache and weakness – closely resemble other, more common African diseases, epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Morse says.
“There are so many diseases in the tropics that, in their initial stages, look so much like Ebola,” Morse told CTV News on Saturday. “If someone does have a serious disease, Ebola is probably one of the less likely ones.”
Doctors have isolated a man with flu-like symptoms at Brampton Civic Hospital while they await the results of a blood test for Ebola, expected on Sunday. The patient’s blood samples were sent to Winnipeg’s highly-specialized National Microbiology Laboratory for testing on Friday.
Ontario health officials suspect the man’s test results will come back negative. "Initial signs and symptoms of Ebola are similar to many more common diseases," Ontario Minister of Health Eric Hoskins said in a statement released Friday.
In its own press release Friday, the Brampton hospital said it "sees and treats several patients a week with similar symptoms."
The sick man was admitted to hospital with flu-like symptoms on Friday after a recent visit to Nigeria.
The World Health Organization says 13 probable or suspected cases of Ebola have been identified in Nigeria, where two infected have died. The WHO has since declared Africa’s Ebola outbreak a public emergency of international concern.
Canadian health officials say they’re taking every precaution to protect against the Ebola virus.
Dr. Graham Pollett, Ontario’s interim chief medical officer of health, says doctors are currently back-tracing the Brampton patient’s contacts, looking for anyone who may have become sick after coming into contact with him. “These people would be identified and isolated… until it’s ruled out,” he told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
Pollett said Canadian hospitals are on high alert. He added that Ontario’s hospitals have good procedures and infection control measures to deal with a case of Ebola, if the Brampton patient tests positive. “They’re well-equipped,” he said of staff at the Brampton hospital.
Dr. Neil Rau, a Canadian infectious disease specialist, says Canada learned to take extra precautions against infectious diseases after the SARS outbreak in 2003. Rau called the precautions a “guilty until proven innocent” approach in an interview with CTV News on Saturday. “If we were to miss a case, the implications would be very, very bad,” he said.
Worry in Africa
In a notice updated on Friday, the Public Health Agency of Canada warned travellers to avoid non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. It also said that travellers to Nigeria should "exercise special precautions."
Airports in those countries are screening for patients who show signs of flu-like symptoms, Pollett said. People showing signs of illness will be kept off the airplanes, as African officials try to stem the tide of infection.
The Ebola outbreak has been limited to West Africa so far. The WHO reports 1,779 possible cases of the virus in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria. A total of 961 individuals have died of the virus, according to WHO data from Aug. 6.
The following interactive map shows confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in Africa, according to the WHO.