MONTREAL: A patient back from Nigeria who showed symptoms of fever and flu—possible signs of Ebola—was put in isolation in a Toronto-area hospital, Canadian health officials said on Saturday.
Nigeria is one of several countries in West Africa that has had confirmed cases of Ebola, in the world’s largest ever outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever that has seen 961 deaths and nearly 1,800 people infected since the beginning of the year.
The unnamed male patient was being treated at the William Osler Health System’s Brampton Civic Hospital in a suburb of Toronto.
“As a precautionary measure, Osler put in heightened infection control measures in the emergency department including isolating the patient,” the hospital said in a statement.
Hospital doctors “are working closely” with public health officials “to confirm a diagnosis.”
In addition to quarantining the patient, the hospital said it enacted other strict precautionary measures.
“To date, there are no confirmed cases of Ebola in Ontario and the risk to Ontarians remains very low,” said Graham Pollett, the province’s Interim Chief Medical Officer of Health.
He also said that Ontario’s health care system “is prepared to respond should an individual arrive with symptoms that could suggest a disease, such as Ebola.”
He cautioned that initial Ebola symptoms “are similar to many more common diseases,” adding that health care providers “have been advised to be on heightened alert for Ebola cases.”
Another senior Ontario health official, Eric Hoskins, said in a statement that with the “experience and lessons learned from the SARS epidemic, our hospitals have sophisticated infection control systems and procedures . . . and are fully equipped to deal with any potential cases of Ebola.”
The worst affected countries so far have been Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, but Nigeria has also had nine confirmed cases of Ebola so far.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday declared a national emergency several hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) called the epidemic a global health crisis.
The Ebola virus that has triggered an historic epidemic of hemorrhagic fever is one of the deadliest known to man and has killed almost 1,000 people since January in west Africa.
The latest outbreak has a fatality rate of around 55-60 percent and had killed 961 people and infected around 1,800 by Friday, but for now it has been largely contained to countries in west Africa.
The tropical virus can fell its victims within days, causing severe fever and muscle pain, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea—in some cases shutting down organs and causing unstoppable bleeding.
Prior to the current outbreak, some 1,600 people had been diagnosed with Ebola haemorrhagic fever since the virus was first identified 36 years ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire), and 1,200 had died, the UN health agency says.
Experts say the virus, despite being extremely virulent, is containable because it kills its victims faster than it can spread to new ones.
The incubation period between exposure and the first symptoms varies from two to 21 days.
There are five species of the virus, of which three are particularly dangerous with fatality rates from 25 to 90 percent, according to the WHO.
It is transmitted through contact with the blood, body fluids,secretions or organs of an infected person.
The virus has been known to spread at burials where mourners touch the body, but doctors and nurses have also fallen ill after failing to take adequate precautions.
Even testing blood specimens for the disease presents “an extreme biohazard risk,” the WHO said.