Ebola scare at Toronto-area hospital

A patient who recently returned from a trip to Nigeria and developed fever and flu-like symptoms has triggered an Ebola virus scare at a Toronto-area hospital.

Nigeria is one of several western African countries dealing with an outbreak of the potentially-deadly Ebola virus.

On Friday, Nigeria declared a national state of emergency over the growing health crisis — one that has caused the World Health Organization (WHO) to call the outbreak an “extraordinary event.”

The patient admitted to Brampton Civic Hospital developed fever and flu-like symptoms on Friday, according to Dr. Eileen de Villa, Peel Region’s associate medical officer of health.

While de Villa is not a member of the team of medical personnel treating the patient, she confirmed that person has been placed in isolation.

“I’m quite confident in this circumstance that the hospital is taking the necessary measures, in particular infection control measures,” said de Villa, who stressed that no diagnosis had been made.

“Again, there are health concerns that are ongoing in west Africa and in Nigeria,” she said. “The management of this particular case, given the recent travel, includes the use of heightened infection control measures.”

The hospital is investigating and treating the patient’s condition with help from public health officials. A healthcare provider is by law required to report to public health “when they suspect the presence of a communicable disease,” Dr. de Villa said.

“We’re working with our hospital partners to facilitate the appropriate public health laboratory connections so that a diagnosis can be made,” she added.

Microbiologist Jason Tetro is confident that the diagnosis is likely not Ebola.

He has kept an eye on the outbreak, which claimed over 900 lives in West Africa so far.

The situation in Brampton is “our healthcare system at work,” Tetro said.

“We learned from SARS and we are not going to allow SARS to happen again, whether it be Ebola, avian flu … or any other outbreak that may happen,” he said.

There is a “very low chance” that the diagnosis for the patient in Brampton would be Ebola, he added.

Given that only a tiny portion of the Nigerian population has the virus, “the likelihood that this person came into contact with infected people is literally nil,” Tetro said.

With no known cure, Ebola has a mortality rate of up to 90%, according to the WHO.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, and internal and external bleeding and can take up to 21 days to develop. It is spread through contact with blood and other bodily fluids.

Brampton Civic Hospital did not respond on Friday to several requests for information.

— With files from Reuters

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Dan Mullin is an active writer and editor for the Pluto Daily who covered the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Mullin attended the Wake Forest School of Medicine before leaving to pursue his lifelong science goal of allowing humans to live forever via a computer/brain transfer.