Diagnostic testing is underway for a patient at a Brampton, Ont., hospital being treated for flu-like symptoms after travelling from Nigeria, where the deadly Ebola virus recently broke out.
Brampton Civic Hospital has isolated the patient, who was admitted on Friday, as a precaution and has put in place “strict infection control measures in the emergency department and throughout the hospital,” according to a staff memo released on Saturday.
The results of the testing are expected within the next 24 hours, according to a statement by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on Saturday evening. Samples have been sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. The patient is still being treated in isolation, but more details about his or her condition were not provided in the release.
A recent outbreak of the rare but deadly disease in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria has claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 people. While there are currently no confirmed cases of Ebola in Ontario, the ministry has advised health-care providers that Ebola is a disease to be ruled out in travellers who have visited Africa in the previous 21 days.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, a medical officer with Peel Public Health, said on Saturday that a patient in a case like this would be tested for either an immune response to the virus or the virus itself.
Despite repeated inquires from the media, the hospital did not provide specifics about what “heightened infection control” entails. The staff memo states that the hospital “treats several patients each week who have similar symptoms” and that “it’s business as usual throughout the hospital.”
The Ministry of Health stated on Friday that hospitals across the province “have sophisticated infection control systems and procedures” and “are fully equipped to deal with any potential cases of Ebola.” The statement noted that initial symptoms of Ebola are similar to those in more common diseases.
Ebola, which does not yet have a cure or licensed vaccination, is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids such as blood, urine, saliva and diarrhea. Early symptoms of the virus include fever, vomiting, muscle pain and bleeding, which are presented in less severe diseases such as flu and malaria.
But for some visitors to Brampton Civic Hospital on Saturday, news of the isolated patient was unexpected and concerning.
Michelle Casullo and her husband Alex Marra found out while watching television in a waiting area. Ms. Casullo had injured herself the night before and wanted to make sure her pregnancy was unaffected.
“I would have had no idea if I didn’t see it on the screen. If I had known that, we would have went somewhere else,” she said.
Magid Saleem and his wife Tabinda Naz also paid a visit to the maternity ward on Saturday.
“To tell you the truth I haven’t heard this before,” said Mr. Saleem. “That virus has killed almost a thousand people in Africa, so it is scary.”