Low risk of Ebola spreading to Alberta, officials say after disease scare …

EDMONTON – Alberta Health Services’s senior medical officer of health says protocols are in place to deal with Ebola if it should ever appear in the province after a scare shut down the Royal Alexandra Hospital’s emergency department Monday morning.

“People need to be reassured that our staff are vigilant in looking out for potential Ebola cases,� said Dr. Gerry Predy at a news conference Monday.

The emergency department was shut down for about 4-1/2 hours after a patient came in with potential Ebola symptoms after travelling to Africa. The department reopened to the public at 11 a.m.

“They took the appropriate steps … I think the public can be reassured that if a case of Ebola does appear in Alberta that our staff will be on it.â€�

The patient was quarantined and remains in isolation, though Ebola was ruled out after it was determined that, while he had been in a country with Ebola, he had not been in affected areas.

Ebola symptoms are not specific at the initial stage and can appear similar to many other infectious diseases, Predy said.

As of Sept. 20, there have been more than 2,800 deaths from Ebola in Africa and more than 5,800 confirmed or suspected cases, according to the World Health Organization.

The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated.

About 220 people per day visit the emergency department at the Royal Alex. The department was cleaned and disinfected as a precaution and no other patients who were there are at risk of Ebola.

Predy would not comment on the man’s condition, but did say further testing would be done to determine what illness the man actually has.

Predy does not believe the man has anything “unusually infectious.� While it is unlikely to spread to Alberta, Predy said this is not the first Ebola scare the province has seen, so it’s better to be prepared.

“We do have protocols that we’ve established for screening patients,� Predy said.

AHS advises health practitioners to be on guard if a patient has a fever of 38.6 C or higher, or has travelled or lived in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria or any other infected areas. Posters have been put up asking patients to tell triage nurses where they’ve travelled recently.

“I think today’s actions should provide reassurance that even if there was a case of Ebola, as rare as it might be, it will be handled,� Predy said.

The first cases in West Africa in March 2014 sparked the current outbreak, the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.

oellwand@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/otiena

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