What you need to know about the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa

Posted on Monday, August 25, 2014

 

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion. / Photo:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wikimedia

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion. / Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wikimedia

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa a global emergency. As a result, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recommends that Canadians avoid all non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

With the fall semester beginning soon, McGill University is following the PHAC’s recommendation that students, faculty and staff avoid all nonessential university travel to the four affected countries. Those who are considering travel to this region should consult at the pre-travel clinic at the J.D. MacLean Centre for Tropical Diseases in the Montreal General Hospital of the MUHC.

The Ebola virus disease has no vaccine or specific cure and is associated with high rates of mortality. However, no transmission of the virus has occurred outside of West Africa and no Ebola cases have been reported in Canada.

The Ebola virus is transmitted only through close contact with a sick person (or animal), via blood and other body fluids, and through contaminated objects, such as syringes. Symptoms include fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash and, in some cases, bleeding.

If you develop infectious disease symptoms within three weeks after returning from an affected area, or if you suspect that you have been exposed to Ebola virus (e.g., medical volunteers who have worked in hospitals) in the affected areas, seek medical attention immediately and mention your recent travel to the doctor.

The risk of Ebola is very low in Canada, especially in Quebec where there are no direct flights to the affected countries. However, hospitals across the province, including the MUHC, are establishing detailed protocols in the event that a suspected Ebola patient arrives in the province.

For additional resources and information about the Ebola outbreak, please visit the WHO and PHAC websites:

WHO: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/en/

PHAC: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/id-mi/vhf-fvh/ebola-eng.php

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