Ebola risk in Canada rated as 'very low'
Published Wednesday, October 1, 2014 11:36AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 1, 2014 5:23PM EDT
The risk of Ebola in Canada is still minimal and the country is well prepared to protect Canadians against an outbreak, the Public Health Agency of Canada said Wednesday.
Speaking one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S., federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the Public Health Agency of Canada still rates the risk to Canadians as "very low."
Ambrose said the individual diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. had recently flown from Liberia to Texas, and did not travel through Canada en route to their destination. She also noted the individual was not symptomatic -- and therefore not contagious -- while travelling.
There are no direct flights between the affected areas in Africa and Canada, she noted.
Speaking from a health ministers meeting in Banff, Alta., Ambrose cautioned Canadians to temper their concern about the first North American case.
"Today we want to remind Canadians that the Ebola virus does not spread easily from person to person," she said, adding that it is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids of symptomatic individuals, not through casual contact that can transmit other diseases such as the flu.
Ambrose said Canada has several systems in place to identify and prevent the spread of serious infectious diseases, like round-the-clock monitoring at points of entry into the country. She also said officials continue to work on increasing Canada’s ability to better test symptomatic patients.
“The Public Health Agency is working with the provinces and territories to build lab capacity, and soon there will be several jurisdictions in Canada that will have the lab capacity to rule out Ebola.”
Ambrose also said that provincial and territorial health ministers unanimously endorsed a multilateral information-sharing agreement. “This agreement improves our ability to deal with urgent public health events like Ebola, and plan for the health and safety of Canadians,” she said.
Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada's new chief public health officer, said Canadian border agents have been trained to screen travellers for symptoms of Ebola. As well, quarantine officers are prepared to impose a quarantine if needed, he said.
Ambrose added that the network of microbiology laboratories throughout the country is well-prepared to detect any cases of Ebola and respond quickly to prevent the spread of the virus, if needed.
"Canadians can be assured that we have the systems in place to keep them safe," she said.
The World Health Organization estimates that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 3,000 people and has sickened more than 6,500.
Canada has contributed aid to help contain the outbreak in the form of money, supplies and 800-1,000 doses of the experimental Ebola vaccine VSV-EBOV.