More than 1,700 staff with Alberta Health Services have been trained to deal with Ebola and the training will continue, says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.
Dr. James Talbot said while the risk to Albertans is low, the threat remains with ongoing outbreaks in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“We’re not going to be completely safe until the disease is completely eradicated in those three countries. So this is a marathon, potentially, in which we’ll have to be alert for months until that situation is resolved in Africa, so the training is going to be ongoing.”
He said training has been happening around the province.
So far, Alberta has seen five or six possible cases that all turned out to be negative for Ebola.
Ebola causes hemorrhagic fever in humans and animals and can lead to internal bleeding and organ failure. It is often fatal.
Recently, a Fort McMurray work camp was closed by the operator and the medic on site isolated himself from others after a possible case was sent to hospital.
“We probably wouldn’t have done those things but it’s hard to criticize people from being overly cautious.”
Talbot said if someone did have Ebola, they would not be infectious until they developed a fever.
“Even when you have fever for the first couple of days, the viral load they carry is quite low. Usually the chance of a transmission is correspondingly low.”
In addition to training, enhanced guidelines are in place for rapid assessment and triage for patients with fever and care for seriously ill potential or proven Ebola cases. Guidelines have also been enhanced for infection, prevention and control in acute care and for waste management.
Ebola personal protective gear has been sent to the four acute care facilities in Edmonton and Calgary designated to care for suspected or confirmed cases, as well as regional and urban hospital emergency departments, urgent care centres and several additional facilities.
Talbot said it is most important that health-care workers have no skin exposed and take care when removing their gear to avoid contamination.
He said the outbreak in Africa has shown the importance of workers being alert and aware of their situation and surroundings.
They also need to be willing to look after an Ebola patient. At the moment, Alberta health-care workers can refuse to work with an Ebola patient, he said.
“The key thing is to make sure that the health-care worker is relaxed, is alert, is properly trained, properly protected and that they monitor things like their fatigue level. You really do want people involved in doing that on a voluntary basis.”