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Health region prepares for Ebola, but risk extremely low

Posted on November 4, 2014 by Maple Creek

Right now, the big word in news is Ebola and despite the fact that it is extremely difficult to contract the disease, many are worried about it appearing in their area.

In an effort to stay ahead of the problem, Cypress Health Region along with Saskatchewan Health, is preparing for the day if Ebola ever makes it to Canada and our region of Saskatchewan.

Currently, nearly 14,000 people worldwide have contracted the disease, with nearly 5,000 dying from it. The vast majority of the cases are in African countries, with only four cases appearing in the United States and one case in Spain.

No cases have been reported in Canada, but according to Dr. David Torr of Cypress Health Region, preparations are being made in case Ebola ever reaches here.

“We are co-ordinating and are in sync with the authorities involved in this, particularly with the province, while monitoring the international situation,” Torr said. “Some work we have done is narrowing down on personal protective equipment that would be used in the event that we had a suspect case for staff who were encountering individuals.”

Currently, if Ebola was to appear in the province, patients would be sent to one of two locations in Saskatchewan.

“The protocol now for the province is we will have two treatment sites, one is St. Paul Hospital in Saskatoon and the other is Regina General Hospital in Regina,” Torr said. “The priority would be to transport the person in the most appropriate way with minimal infection spreading, to one of those two centres.”

Currently, with no Ebola in Canada, the only way it can come in is from outside the country. As such, measures are already in place at airports to check anyone coming from infected countries.

“There are things like screening, which is a collaborative effect, right from flights and co-ordinating officers screening people coming into Canada who may be flying from an outbreak area. There is no Ebola in Canada right now,” Torr said. “If there is an indication they have been exposed to Ebola, but not having any symptoms, then they may be allowed to continue to their residence but they will be told to self-monitor.”

That all being said, the risk of getting Ebola is extremely low due to how it transmits. It is not an airborne virus and the likelihood that it will mutate into one is very, very low.

“It is not impossible but it is a small risk. It all depends on movement. Do we have any individuals who might be going to, or coming from, the infected countries doing missionary work for example, or nurses or health care workers who are volunteering in those countries,” Torr said. “These are all potential avenues that we could get Ebola. If we have anyone who has relatives there for whatever reason decided to visit them, it is a small risk but you can’t say impossible without knowing people’s movements.”

One reason that many are worried about Ebola is the fact that it is getting so much attention on national media, and many do not understand the disease or how it transmits. As such, speculation is rife on the Internet from less-reputable sources, adding fuel to the fear fire of Ebola. In contrast, influenza kills 350 people per year in Canada.

“Ebola has a lot of attention and it is not even here, yet we have a lot of illnesses like influenza that are already here. We have a vaccine for influenza, and some people have been asking in line if the flu vaccine will help against Ebola. People are not very comfortable with the word Ebola and that seems to be a high concern on the radar,” Torr said. “We have a lot of illnesses that are here, and a lot more potential for those, but we have to take the measures to make sure we don’t get Ebola in our community and that is what we are working on on multiple levels. We are updating our staff on protocols, and we are stocking up on personal protection equipment. If we had an Ebola situation, we know our EMS or frontline workers have the right protective gear.”

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