EDMONTON - An Edmonton hospital has become the latest in the country to temporarily close its doors over a possible case of Ebola, although the disease was ruled out after a few hours.
Dr. Gerry Predy, Alberta's senior medical officer of health, said the ill patient had been waiting for a while Monday morning in the emergency room at Royal Alexandra Hospital. When he was seen by staff, he told them he had recently travelled from Africa, where there is an outbreak of the highly contagious virus.
Predy wouldn't reveal the man's symptoms but said his clinical condition was "suggestive" of Ebola.
Within a half hour, the hospital closed its emergency department and workers began cleaning and disinfecting the unit.
It was open again before noon.
"Even though at this point we've ruled it out, I think at the time the patient appeared it wasn't quite that obvious," Predy said.
"When we actually did a detailed analysis of the travel itinerary, he was not in any Ebola-infected area."
The man remains in isolation while further test are being done, Predy said.
Other people who were in the waiting room with him have also been notified.
"Any patients who were in the department at that time can be reassured that they're not at risk of getting Ebola or other infectious diseases."
There have been other Ebola scares at hospitals in Alberta and Canada in recent weeks. A hotel in Saint John, N.B. was also locked down for several hours after a woman who had been to Africa fell ill there.
In all cases, it was determined people did not have the virus.
New figures released Monday by the World Health Organization show Ebola has sickened more than 5,800 people in West Africa and killed about 2,800. The vast majority of cases have been in Liberia but the disease has also reached Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal.
Predy said there's a small chance Ebola will make it to Canada, but health officials across the country are prepared and screening patients. Posters are up in every Alberta hospital asking people to notify staff if they have travelled lately to Africa.
"I think the public can be reassured that if a case of Ebola does appear in Alberta, our staff will be on it."