As of August 2, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the end of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern for the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa. New EVD cases are still being reported in West Africa. Ontario’s health system may encounter patients who have recovered from EVD and who carry the virus. An updated EVD Outbreak Case Definition has been posted on Ontario.ca/ebola. However, the risk posed to Ontarians from Ebola virus disease remains very low. As a result, all Ebola virus disease directives are no longer in effect as of August 2, 2016.
This page provides information for our patients, visitors, and community on Ebola and the protocols that The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) has in place at both our General and Birchmount campuses to ensure the safety of everyone at our hospital if a patient was to present with Ebola or Ebola-like symptoms.
What Is Ebola?
Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa.
The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness, which is often fatal if untreated. Ebola is characterized by the sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain and headache. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
How Does Ebola Spread?
Although Ebola can be acquired from infected animals or humans, most cases in the current outbreak in West Africa have come from human-to-human transmission, according to WHO. If a healthy individual’s broken skin or mucous membranes come in contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual or with an environment contaminated by an Ebola patient’s bodily fluids, they can contract the virus.
The virus can be spread through bodily fluids such as blood, stool, urine, saliva, semen and vomit. Once someone is infected, however, they can’t spread the disease until they start showing symptoms, which generally appear between two to 21 days of transmission.
How Is Ebola Treated?
There is currently no known treatment or licensed vaccine, however doctors can treat Ebola patients with some effectiveness and scientists have developed experimental vaccines. Doctors caring for Ebola patients can provide rehydration and treat specific symptoms, which improves the chances of survival.
What Are The Risks To Canadians Of Getting Ebola?
The risk to Canadians of contracting Ebola is low. Becoming infected requires direct, physical contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual, or with an environment contaminated by an Ebola patient’s bodily fluids.
What To Do If You Think You Are At Risk?
If you have recently travelled to Canada from an Ebola-affected location, or have been in close contact with a person who recently travelled to Canada from an Ebola-affected location, you should take the following precautions:
- Closely monitor your health; in particular, monitor your temperature at least twice a day;
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water;
- Wear a mask and limit your contact with people;
- Go to the nearest hospital emergency department (ED) if you develop symptoms, including high fever, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or bleeding.
- Be sure to tell the Triage Nurse that you have travelled from a region where Ebola is present, or have come in contact with someone who has travelled from a region where Ebola is present.
Can I Still Travel To West Africa?
The Canadian government recommends that citizens avoid non-essential travel to the affected regions in West Africa. This recommendation has been made to protect Canadian travellers and make it easier for health officials in these countries to dedicate their resources towards controlling the outbreak.
How Has The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) Prepared for Ebola?
Although the risk of Ebola in Canada remains low, protecting the health and safety of our patients, staff, physicians, families and the community is of the utmost importance. At TSH, we have taken Ebola preparedness very seriously. We have worked diligently to plan and prepare in the event we receive a patient presenting with Ebola or Ebola-like symptoms.
An Ebola Preparedness Advisory Committee, consisting of a cross-functional team of Directors and health care professionals, is in place to ensure that TSH can respond appropriately in the event we receive an Ebola patient. We have a series of updated policies and processes; and Ontario hospitals are receiving ongoing support and updates from the Ministry of Health Emergency Management Branch, Public Health Ontario and the Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee (PIDAC).
Other plans and preparations include:
- Screening procedures – including obtaining a patient’s travel history – for all incoming ED patients, with plans to extend the screening process to our outpatient clinics and elective surgery patients;
- Signage at our hospital’s public entrances to inform patients of self-screening and when to identify themselves appropriately to hospital staff;
- Appropriate and effective Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at both campuses for staff and physicians to wear when caring for a suspected Ebola patient;
- Areas in our EDs and Intensive Care Units (ICUs) have been identified where suspected cases can be appropriately assessed, admitted and treated;
- Training for TSH personnel who would care for a suspected Ebola patient;
- Mock drills to ensure policies and procedures are carried out effectively and safely; and,
- A dedicated section on the hospital’s Intranet for staff and physicians with the latest information and resources on Ebola.