Volume 94, Issue 77

Thursday, February 8, 2001


Candidates talk diversity - Prez hopefuls discuss culture at Essex

Three candidates fined for infractions

Ebola scare turns out to be a false alarm

Careleton University to avert TA strike

Braun wants USC continuity

Commercials aim for the funny bone


Planet Me

Ebola scare turns out to be a false alarm

By Clare O'Hara
Gazette Staff

North America's first Ebola virus scare has come to an end after Hamilton doctors verified tests have come back negative yesterday.

"The Ebola testing is negative from Winnipeg's preliminary results reducing the likelihood that the patient has been infected with the Ebola virus," Marc Loeb, an infectious disease specialist announced at yesterday's press conference.

Health officials at Henderson Hospital in Hamilton confirmed the Ebola scare hit Canada when a Congolese woman, traveling from the Democratic Republic of Congo, came into Pearson International Airport on Saturday afternoon. Thirty hours later, she was rushed to Henderson Hospital suffering from a mysterious virus, which doctors believed to be a tropical infection of Ebola, a contagious deadly virus.

According to Monir Taha, a public health officer at Henderson Hospital, the woman showed no signs of illness throughout her entire flight which stopped in Rome and Newark, New Jersey, before landing in Toronto.

Inspectors at immigration saw no signs of illness in any of the passengers that came off the flight, proving the woman was not ill until hours after leaving the airport, he said.

Doctors at Hamilton's Henderson Hospital are now looking into other diseases linked to hemorrhagic fevers such as Lassa fever, Crimean Congo and yellow fever. "These are all severe viruses but are only transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, saliva and semen," Loeb said.

The passengers that were on the same flight as the patient have nothing to worry about, Tahir said. "We are being cautious following up on those that could have been exposed such as close friends. The fact that the patient was not ill during the flight confirms that it could not have been passed on to those around her."

"Our response to this case has been very rapid for public health concerns," said Doug Macpherson at Henderson Hospital. "On behalf of Health Canada the quality of care given to this individual has been outstanding and there is still more testing in the works."

David Groves, president of Canadian Association for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, said health officials handled the situation properly. "The approach taken towards the patient was immediate and appropriate. The entire response time was done in an hour and a half, it was pretty much a textbook procedure," he said.

Groves said he felt this is not an issue of inspection of immigration but an issue of how to control the diagnosis of a disease in the absence of symptoms.

"There are techniques available to screen every passenger coming off a flight but it is extremely expensive and the return would be close to zero," he said.

Bryna Warshawsky, of the London Middlesex Health Unit, said London health services would be able to handle such a situation here. "Even though London has never seen anything like a tropical disease, I think that London would be able to handle a situation exactly like Hamilton did."

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