Via the Ottawa Citizen: What if Ebola is found in Ottawa? Here’s the plan. Excerpt:
As the worst Ebola outbreak in history burns in West Africa, health authorities in Ontario have been quietly preparing for a case here.
In May, Ottawa’s public-health unit mentioned Ebola in a regular newsletter to local doctors, in a section on “Fever in the returning traveller.” Chances are that fever is malaria. But here’s some reading you might want to do on hemorrhagic fevers.
Lately, they’ve gotten more specific: Public Health Ontario produced a fact sheet on what to look for in patients and how to handle them, which was sent out last week. The local health unit is repeating the instructions in a memo of its own to family doctors, clinics and emergency departments.
“Those who need to know, right now, are in fact in our health-care sector,” said Dr. Rosamund Lewis, an associate medical officer of health in charge of the effort. Before joining Ottawa’s health unit, she worked for the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization, including years in Uganda.
This week, the unit is drafting a questionnaire its workers will use to identify anyone who has had contact with someone who might have Ebola, to chase down every possible case.
In 38 years, Ebola has only ever sickened people in Africa. But if someone came to the emergency room at the Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital with a fever, nausea and a tale of having just come back from Liberia — roughly what happened at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital a few days ago — nobody will want the nurses and doctors figuring out what to do on the fly.
“We hope we’re preparing for nothing,” said Dr. Kathryn Suh, The Ottawa Hospital’s medical director of infection control.
But suppose it did happen. Hospitals’ triage nurses, who handle newly arrived patients, have been trained to know what to look for. Beyond symptoms such as a fever and upset stomach, the key thing is a travel history, Lewis said; someone who hasn’t been to a place with Ebola almost definitely does not have Ebola, regardless of their symptoms.
But if the person has been to West Africa lately, the hospital will want every detail of the trip that the patient or his or her family can supply.