The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has the province working on a response to protect Albertans.
The last time Alberta put its pandemic plan into action was for the 2009 influenza pandemic after the international outbreak of swine flu or H1N1.
“There are elements of that plan that we’ve reinforced with both Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services over the last couple of weeks,” Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said on Tuesday, the day after the federal government announced a $2.5-million donation in protective equipment, such as gloves, respiratory masks, face shields and gowns in response to the Ebola outbreak.
“Until the outbreak in Africa is brought under control, we’re not going to be completely safe.”
So far there has never been a case of Ebola in Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada says the risk to Canadians is low.
Ebola causes hemorrhagic fever in humans and animals and can lead to internal bleeding and organ failure. It is often fatal.
Talbot said Canada and Alberta have excellent medical systems.
“Alberta Health Services runs a first-rate operation and we have great public health so we’re reasonably well protected.”
He said the province is constantly reviewing and renewing its approach to all sorts of hazards. Its pandemic plan looks at who does what, and makes sure occupational health and safety, infection control and prevention, public health, acute care hospitals, and emergency management services all work as an integrated, co-ordinated team.
“Ebola is slightly different from influenza because, thankfully, it isn’t transmitted by respiratory route, with what we call aerosol. It’s mainly by personal contact and infected material.”
Ebola is spread through direct contact with infected body fluids.
Talbot said the Public Health Agency of Canada is co-ordinating what kind of responses the provinces and territories would be prepared to make to the international effort.
He said some health-care workers within Alberta have volunteered to go to countries affected in West Africa to help out. Participation has been done on an individual basis.
Talbot recommended that members of the public not travel to affected areas unless absolutely necessary. If they have to go, they should register with the federal government.
The federal government has issued travel health notices due to Ebola for Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal.
Across Canada, systems are in place to identify and prevent the spread of serious infections like Ebola, including monitoring and tracking infectious diseases and administering the Quarantine Act at all points of entry into Canada 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
To date, Canada has contributed over $5 million in support of humanitarian, security and public health interventions to address the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. A mobile lab unit, based in Sierra Leone and staffed by Public Health Agency of Canada workers was sent to provide laboratory diagnostic support to help identify those infected.
Canada also donated 800 to 1,000 doses of Vesicular Stomatitis Virus-based vaccine, an experimental vaccine for the Ebola virus.
Talbot said community organizations in Alberta have been asking what they can do to help and countries impacted say the best way is to donate money so they can buy what they need nearby.
The Canadian Red Cross is one the charities working with communities affected by the Ebola virus. Donations can be made to its International Disaster Relief Fund. For information, visit www.redcross.ca.