Risks of Ebola in British Columbia remain low

The following information about Ebola was issued by the BC Centre for Disease Control.

By Dr. Bonnie Henry, Interim Executive Medical Director, BC Centre for Disease Control

New cases continue to be reported for the Ebola virus disease occurring in West Africa. As of July 23, there have been 1,201 cases and 672 deaths reported to the World Health Organization from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and more cases are expected.

In Canada, there have not been any cases of Ebola and the risk is considered low. Provinces, territories and the Public Health Agency of Canada continue to monitor the situation. If the risk increases or a case were ever confirmed in Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Ministry of Health, the BC Centre for Disease Control and local health authorities would alert British Columbians and Canadians and put any necessary measures in place to protect the public.

BCCDC is aware that some British Columbians are participating in the response in affected countries.

The risk to most travellers is considered low, however, the BCCDC has advised BC health care professionals to be on the lookout for illnesses compatible with Ebola in recent travellers, including health care workers, to affected areas. Health care workers who have been involved in the response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa should monitor themselves for 21 days (the incubation period for Ebola virus disease) following their last contact. They should contact public health officials immediately if they develop any symptoms of concern.

Ebola virus disease is a severe disease that causes haemorrhagic fever in humans and animals. Diseases that cause haemorrhagic fevers, such as Ebola, are often fatal as they affect the body’s vascular system (how blood moves through the body). This can lead to significant internal bleeding and organ failure.

The Ebola virus can spread through:

  • contact with infected animals

  • contact with blood, body fluids or tissues of infected persons

  • contact with medical equipment (such as needles) that are contaminated with infected body fluids

Outbreaks of Ebola are largely in Central and West Africa. As long as precautions are taken, there is low risk of contracting Ebola in a country where the disease is present. The incubation period for Ebola is 2-21 days. People become contagious once they begin to show symptoms; they are not contagious during the incubation period.

Information on Ebola virus disease, including symptoms, prevention, and treatment is available from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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