Communicable Diseases - Ebola

Communicable Disease Prevention and Control

Ebola Virus Disease

Ebola virus disease is a severe disease that causes hemorrhagic fever in humans and animals. While the likelihood of a case presenting in Nova Scotia is very low, the province’s health care system is preparing to manage cases.

The Department of Health and Wellness has been working closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada, other provinces and territories, and partners throughout the Nova Scotia health system to develop an Ebola virus disease protocol and other guidance for managing cases.

Basic Facts About Ebola Virus Disease

How is Ebola virus disease spread?

Ebola virus disease cannot be transmitted before symptoms appear. If there are no symptoms, the person is not contagious. People cannot get Ebola virus disease through food, water or the air. It is not a respiratory illness like influenza or tuberculosis.

People can only get it from contact with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died of Ebola virus disease, touching contaminated objects like needles, or touching infected animals, their blood or other body fluids, or their meat. Application of appropriate infection prevention and control measures such as personal protective equipment will protect those providing health care.

Who is at risk of getting Ebola virus disease?

The likelihood of a case in Nova Scotia is very low. If there is a case, people who have unprotected exposure to the patient’s blood and body fluids would be most at risk.
Nova Scotia is preparing with protocols, equipment and training for staff in the health system who would be involved in helping manage a case. Rigorously following proper infection prevention and control protocols will keep health care workers safe.

Where are the outbreaks of Ebola virus disease?

There are Ebola virus disease outbreaks in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone. The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued travel advisories for these countries.

Are people coming to Canada from the affected countries being screened?

Yes. While there are no direct flights to Canada from the affected countries, anyone travelling to Canada from one of the affected countries is being directed to a quarantine officer at the airport for a mandatory health assessment.

These individuals will also be followed closely by local Public Health or a quarantine officer until they are no longer at risk of developing Ebola virus disease. There are a number of mechanisms in place to identify individuals who have traveled to areas of concern as soon as they enter the province.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of Ebola virus disease may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to virus. They typically include:

  • sudden onset of fever
  • intense weakness
  • muscle pain
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • rash
  • impaired kidney and liver function
  • in some cases, both internal and external bleeding

What is the Treatment?

While there is not yet a cure for Ebola virus disease, some experimental drugs are being tested and, in some cases, used as part of treatment. Aside from that, treatment options include supportive care and strict isolation to prevent the infection from spreading.

Nova Scotia’s Ebola Virus Disease Protocol

The following is a high level overview of Nova Scotia’s Ebola Virus Disease Protocol. You can also review the entire protocol and other information for the health system.

What’s the preferred way for an ill person who has recently travelled to an Ebola affected country to enter the health system?

  1. The person should isolate him or herself from other people, and call 811 immediately. 811 has a screening tool with certain questions to assess the caller.
  2. If the caller’s responses suggest Ebola virus disease is a possibility, 811 will immediately contact the Medical Officer of Health on call. Others will be added to a teleconference if necessary.
  3. If it is determined that the caller should be tested for Ebola, an ambulance will be dispatched to transport the caller from his/her current location to the QEII (or IWK for pediatrics).

What if a person with suspected Ebola virus disease calls 911 instead?

  1. 911 has the same screening tool as 811, so the process would be essentially the same.
  2. If responses to screening tool questions suggest Ebola virus disease is a possibility, 911 will immediately contact the Medical Officer of Health on call. Others will be added to a teleconference if necessary.
  3. If it is determined that the caller should be tested for Ebola, an ambulance will be dispatched to transport the caller from his/her current location to the QEII (or IWK for pediatrics).

What if a person with suspected Ebola virus disease goes to an emergency department, family doctor or clinic?

  1. Emergency departments and primary care physicians also have the same screening tool.
  2. If responses to screening tool questions suggest Ebola virus disease is a possibility, the patient will be isolated in a room and with the door closed.
  3. The physician will call a Medical Officer of Health.
  4. If it is determined that the patient should be tested for Ebola, an ambulance will be dispatched to transport the patient from his/her current location to the QEII (or IWK for pediatrics) – or to the appropriate treatment space if he/she is already at the QEII or IWK.

Do Nova Scotia health care facilities have the ability to test for Ebola?

The microbiology lab in Halifax now has the ability to test for Ebola. A suspected case requiring testing will be transported to the QEII or IWK so that testing can be done. To minimize risk to health care workers and others, these are the only places in the province where blood samples will be drawn, following rigorous infection prevention and control guidelines.