Alberta chief medical officer says Ebola threat low

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer is taking it upon himself to dispel any rumours swirling around Ebola in the province.

Dr. James Talbot recorded and released an update Thursday and wrote a letter to media outlets detailing his concerns regarding Ebola myths and misconceptions.

“The risk of Ebola in Alberta continues to be very low and there are no confirmed cases of Ebola in Alberta or in Canada at this time,” said Talbot.

In his letter, Talbot says one of the biggest misconceptions surrounds the transmission of the Ebola virus through the air. People infected with Ebola transmit the disease through vomiting and diarrhea and do not produce aerosols, which are typically produced in respiratory diseases like measles.

While Talbot admits the Ebola virus may not show up in blood for three days in a person with early symptoms, he emphasizes that patients are not infectious until they become symptomatic.

“Even when they first have fever, the amount of virus they have is quite low – and it’s actually fairly safe to be with people at that early stage. It’s not until three or four days later that the viral load really increases,” writes Talbot.“In any outbreak situation, public health’s two biggest enemies are ignorance of the facts and fear. Together they are a recipe for unreasoning panic.”

To avoid air transmission, Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services are recommending that all health-care workers wear enhanced personal protective equipment when performing procedures that can create aerosols.

Health-care workers have also been taking part in numerous preparedness activities, including hands-on practise and personal protective equipment sessions. These sessions focus on ensuring all skin is covered so to not expose health care workers to infectious material if a patient has Ebola, as well as how to properly remove equipment to avoid contamination.

So far, there has been 343 general education sessions and 388 personal protective equipment training sessions at sites across the province.

Internationally, Talbot says the situation is becoming more encouraging, citing the number of cases in Liberia are going down, though there “continues to be activity” in the other two affected countries in Africa, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Talbot encourages Albertans looking to help fight Ebola by donating to charitable organizations like Doctors without Borders or the Red Cross.

“We will not be truly safe in Alberta until everyone is safe from Ebola, regardless of where they are,” said Talbot.

Trevor.robb@sunmedia.ca

@SunTrevorRobb

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