NEWS

Ebola preparedness: Ontario hospitals ready, officials say

10/15/2014 04:30 EDT | Updated 12/15/2014 05:59 EST
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins and chief medical health officer Dr. David Mowat say the risk of Ebola landing in Ontario is low, but the province is ready if it does.

"All in all, we are prepared and have been prepared — not just for Ebola but for any infectious disease," said Mowat.

There have been eight suspected cases of Ebola in Ontario thus far, but none has turned out to be the disease.

"It is unlikely that we will have many cases of Ebola in Ontario," said Mowat, noting that there are no direct flights from West Africa to Ontario and it is not particularly easy to contract Ebola.

"An individual who is not displaying symptoms is not contagious," said Mowat.

Hoskins and Mowat said the eight suspected cases show that the province is ready, as all protocols worked well.

Is Ontario behind?

In other provinces and urban centres in the United States, there are staff, hospitals, clinics, labs and ambulances dedicated to Ebola.

Ontario has designated Toronto Western Hospital as a centre for possible Ebola cases, but said other decisions on dedicated resources would be made in "coming days" and announced by Friday.

"I have absolute confidence in the measures, procedures and policies in place," said Hoskins.

Hoskins said he understands the anxieties of the public, but that people should feel safe from the virus. He disputed any suggestion that Ontario was behind in preparations.

As a result of SARS, an infectious disease that hit Ontario in the early 2000s, the province has the best protocols available, Hoskins said.

Another suggestion was to close Canadian borders to those who may have been exposed to Ebola. Both men said better solutions exist.

"It would be unfortunate if somehow we could exclude people at the border and then relax," said Mowat.

Hoskins said he is meeting with federal health minister Rona Ambrose and his fellow provincial health ministers from across Canada on Wednesday. 

Outbreak increasing in West Africa

Ebola first appeared in two simultaneous outbreaks in 1976 in rural Sudan and rural Democratic Republic of Congo. The second location was near the Ebola River, hence the virus's name.

Officials say Ebola cases will surpass 9,000 this week, with the death rate at 70 per cent for Ebola patients in West Africa.

There have been no confirmed cases in Canada, but one death in Dallas, Texas.

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