Health care workers are receiving protective equipment to help guard against Ebola just in case the virus comes to the province, says Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
The Ebola outbreak continues to evolve in West Africa and the United States has seen four confirmed cases of Ebola, one in New York and three in Texas, where a man who had travelled from Liberia later tested positive for the virus and died.
While no cases have been confirmed in Canada, Dr. James Talbot says the province is taking the proper precautions by offering Ebola training sessions and personal protective equipment (PPE) packs to staff at Alberta Health Services.
“We know a lot about Ebola. We know how it’s transmitted and it’s heartening to see that jurisdictions are doing a really good job of controlling it after the initial case in Dallas where the disease was transmitted, unfortunately, to a couple of health care workers,” said Talbot, adding the risk of contracting Ebola in Alberta is very low.
“My advice to those who read about the likelihood of getting sick in Alberta is to get a flu shot. There are far greater odds of getting the flu than there are of Ebola.”
More than 1,700 health care workers have attended Ebola training sessions in Alberta with 80 more sessions planned over the next two weeks. PPE packs, including full body scrubs, gloves, special masks and face guards, are being distributed to rural and urban hospital emergency departments, urgent care centres and several other sites.
United Nurses of Alberta first vice-president Jane Sustrik said they met with AHS officials in Alberta to discuss precautionary measures. “it’s a “step in the right direction” but there are some concerns with “supply issues” of the PPE packs.
“They’ve identified certain sites as the first sites of need and my understanding is they only have a certain amount of equipment and as more supply becomes available, I believe a second wave of supplies will go out to rural hospitals,” she said.
While Ebola is fatal in 90 per cent of cases, Talbot said it’s very hard to transmit the virus as it requires direct contact with bodily fluids and infected patients often develop symptoms before they become contagious.
Ebola symptoms include the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat that is generally followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and in some cases internal and external bleeding.
While a work camp in Fort McMurray recently shut down due to an Ebola scare involving one if its workers, Talbot said the system worked quickly to test the worker and determine he did not have the virus so the company could resume operations.
“All of that action happened within a period of about four hours so that’s one of the reasons why we’re pretty pleased with how the system is responding.”