On Aug. 8, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to be an international public health emergency that requires an extraordinary response to stop its spread.
Media outlets jumped on the story and social media was alive with concern from North Americans about the potential for an outbreak of the viral hemorrhagic fever on this side of the Pacific.
Besides the concern, the global declaration sparked confusion about not only the potential for an outbreak beyond West Africa, but also on the nature of Ebola and the Canada's ability to prevent its spread here.
To help address the concerns, NorthernLife.ca spoke with Health Sciences North about how hospitals protect patients and the public from infection. We also spoke with the Sudbury District Health Unit (SDHU) about how Canada screens travellers to stop infections like Ebola from spreading.
The SDHU's ultimate message is the risk of contracting Ebola in Canada is extremely low. The health unit also said it is important to understand that, unlike influenza or the common cold, Ebola is not an easy virus to contract because it is not airborne.
The current outbreak of Ebola is in Central and West Africa. There have not been any cases of Ebola in Canada.
Symptoms of Ebola are similar to those of other viral hemorrhagic fevers, such as Marburg, of infectious diseases like malaria or typhoid. Diagnosis can be difficult, especially if only a single case is involved.
Initial symptoms are typical including fever, chills, headache and muscle pain. Additional symptoms include rash on chest, back and stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, delirium and massive hemorrhaging.
Some people who get infected with the Ebola virus are able to recover, but the World Health Organization reports up to 90 per cent of those infected will die.
As long as appropriate precautions are taken, there is low risk of contracting Ebola.