A returned traveller may be responsible for bringing the deadly virus Ebola to Canadian shores. The man (whose identity is being protected from the press) has returned recently from West Africa, where the virus has appeared in recent weeks. It is unknown presently if the man is suffering from Ebola, but precautions have been taken to ensure he is kept in isolation so that the virus does not spread.
The Ebola virus is considered one of the deadliest viruses in the world. Those who catch it have a 25 to 90 percent chance of dying from it, depending on the strain. It has a long incubation period of around 21 days, which in this case, would have allowed the man to arrive home undetected. It is one of several haemorrhagic fevers that are found in Africa.
Once symptoms manifest themselves, patients tend to die very quickly, sometimes in a matter of hours. The strain that is at the center of the recent outbreak in Guinea, is known to be the Zaire virus. Unfortunately, it is listed as having the highest rate of fatalities. It is also the most common strain. The Liberian Health Minister Walter Gwenigale is said to have stated that of the six cases reported in the morning, five had died. The Zaire strain has symptoms that are similar to malaria and so it can go undetected for longer periods. The virus is spread via contact with infected blood, mucus or faeces from the patient. It is often spread via families mourning their loved ones who have succumbed to the disease. Contamination from bat droppings can also spread it.
However, it seems that any contact should be avoided. This is something that was proven by a thief in 2012. The man contracted Ebola from stealing a phone on the bedside table of a patient in a Ugandan hospital. The man was later tracked down by the police when he started to show symptoms of the virus and admitted himself to the local hospital.
Canadian public health officials say the risk of the Ebola virus spreading to the general population of the area is low. The man is being kept in strict isolation with doctors and nurses wearing protective clothing such as goggles, masks, gowns, gloves and boots, and treating the situation with extreme seriousness. Those who may have come into contact with his bodily fluids have been self-isolated and are being monitored for any health concerns.
The man is known to have returned from a trip to Liberia, but is unknown what he was doing there. Doctors are not ruling out other possible diseases from the region including Lassa fever, Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever or Yellow fever. All these other possible diseases are not as deadly as Ebola, and in most cases do not result in death.
It is unknown how this latest outbreak of Ebola found its way into Western Africa as the disease has mostly been confined to the Central region. Experts are looking to migrating bats dropping guano which may be a source for the outbreak. However, the possible spread of the virus across nations to Canada is a worrying concern.
By Sara Watson