With the recent death of a man with Ebola in Dallas, Texas, the disease that has killed over 4,000 people in West Africa has been on the minds of Canadians everywhere. UNB, too, has precautions in place should an outbreak occur in this region.
The UNB Student Health Centre has been working closely with the New Brunswick Department of Health in case of an outbreak of the virus. Doctors at UNB have been provided with the proper training and information on how to handle a potential case of Ebola.
“[We] provide information to the doctors about how to potentially identify someone who might have risks so that they can be isolated. So the doctors have information about the disease and how to manage the initial steps,” said Dr. Na-Koshie Lamptey, a regional medical officer of health.
“We also gave information to the university about what to tell students and staff who’ve travelled to the region, what they should do when they come back.”
In the event of a suspected outbreak, which in Canada would mean even a single Ebola case, the province-wide protocol is to identify the risk and contact the Department of Health. From there the department will come up with a plan to safely transport the patient to a designated medical centre that could handle a potential Ebola case.
But just because the university has a plan in place doesn’t mean they are anticipating any actual cases.
“It is natural to have fears of such a deadly virus. However the risk of contracting Ebola remains extremely low in Canada,” said Dr. Alban Martin, clinical chief at the Student Health Centre.
Ebola is a virus that can be transmitted between animals and humans. It spreads by coming into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual. It is this nature of the virus that makes it more difficult for it to spread quickly.
“It’s not easy to catch in the sense that you have to have close, direct contact with someone to get it — it’s not spread through the air,” Lamptey said.
Symptoms of the disease include: fever, a sore throat, muscle pain, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding. But students should only be concerned if they have travelled to regions in the world where there have been outbreaks of the virus.
And if New Brunswick residents are worried, they should call Tele-Care at 811. But Martin said that there is little reason to be concerned at this point.
“Unlike some of the countries who are suffering significant Ebola outbreaks in Western Africa, we in North America are fortunate to have an excellent public health care system,” he said.
“We have the finances and resources to identify, track and monitor exposed individuals. Sick individuals would also have access to an advanced health care system. As a result of this, it is expected that more individuals would survive the illness.”
Currently it’s worry and fear of contracting the illness, not Ebola itself, that is spreading quickly through the province.
“I can understand the concern because it’s quite compelling on a human level to see the level of suffering that’s going on in West Africa, but I would say that there are many things that make me confident that the situation in Africa is different from the one we have here,” Lamptey said.
“That doesn’t change the nature of the organism. It’s still a serious disease, it can still spread between people, but I think the risk to the general population of New Brunswick is low and if we do have a potential case we could manage it and contain it.”