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Ebola not a priority for border officials, says NGO worker

10/15/2014 03:00 EDT | Updated 12/14/2014 05:59 EST
A Vancouver non-profit worker was surprised at how few questions she was asked when she returned through Canadian customs after being in Liberia.

Anne-Catherine Bajard is the Country Director for IBIS in Liberia, a non-profit that works to improve access to education in Africa.

Bajard was stationed in Monrovia, Liberia, but in August, she moved her work to Accra, in nearby Ghana, over fears of infection.

There is currently no Ebola outbreak in Ghana, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The incubation period for Ebola is 2 to 21 days.

Since she left Liberia more than a month ago, Bajard is now confident she's not a carrier of the virus.

But she still wonders why, when she landed in Canada on Oct. 8, she wasn't asked any questions about whether there was a risk she might be infected.

"That kind of even upset me a little bit," Bajard told CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

"Why aren't they asking where did you come from?"

There are no direct flights from West Africa to Canada, but Bajard said despite her stopover in London, her tickets and luggage indicated she started her trip close to the Ebola outbreak.

Targeted screenings now in effect

On the same day as Bajard's arrival in Canada, Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced targeted screenings for travellers who could be at risk of carrying the virus at six Canadian airports, including YVR.

The Canadian Border Services Agency declined a request for an interview.

In a statement, it said, "The CBSA, as per our normal operations, regularly assesses travellers arriving in Canada for signs of illness. Every traveller arriving in Canada is required to disclose under the Quarantine Act if he or she has reasonable grounds to suspect that he or she may have, or has been exposed to, a communicable disease."

While in West Africa, Bajard said she had to take precautions into her own hands throughout the outbreak.

"From the moment I left Liberia, I took note of the date and decided that for 21 days I would not shake hands or hug anyone, and that I would be careful with any symptoms," she said. 

"I cleared myself after 21 days."

She plans to return to Ghana on Oct.18, and is still hopeful she can resume work in Liberia soon. 

Bajard said she will only return if she feels she can do so without putting herself at risk of contracting the virus, and she knows she will have access to proper health care and flights out of the country. 

"I think it's important for us to get over the trauma, to go back and be with our team."

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