Ebola Virus Disease Information for Health Professionals
Ebola Virus Disease is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness that can be fatal. The virus spreads from person to person and, less commonly, from infected wild animals (e.g., primates or fruit bats). Transmission occurs through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people, or from surfaces and materials contaminated with bodily fluids.
Symptoms typically include sudden onset of fever, malaise and headache, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and unexplained bleeding or bruising. The time between a person becoming infected and developing symptoms ranges from two to 21 days. A person infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until they develop symptoms.
It is estimated that half of the people who contract Ebola die as a result (i.e., case fatality rate is 50%) and tends to be dependent on how quickly supportive therapy is started. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
Visit the World Health Organization’s Ebola virus disease page for updates on areas currently affected by Ebola worldwide and visit the Public Health Agency of Canada's Ebola page for Canadian updates and the latest travel health advice.
For patients returning from Ebola-impacted areas
If your patient is returning to Canada from an Ebola-impacted area, they should:
- Notify their local public health unit immediately upon return to Canada and remain close to hospitals during the 21-day period immediately following their return to Canada
- Monitor for signs and symptoms of illness and record oral temperature twice per day. Symptoms of Ebola virus include:
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
In the event signs or symptoms of illness occur, advise public health immediately and arrangements will be made for patient transportation and medical assessment. Health care providers must be notified in advance to be prepared with protective equipment. Patients should take private vehicles to health care facilities when possible, as opposed to paramedic services, unless their symptoms and severity would prevent this.
Role of York Region Clinicians – what you should do
- Be aware of the updated guidelines from Public Health Ontario, which provides guidance for infection prevention and control management of individuals with a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of viral hemorrhagic fever, including Ebola.
- Immediately report any individuals with suspect signs and symptoms of Ebola to York Region Public Health. Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: call 1-877-464-9675 ext. 73588. After 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 24 hours per day on weekends/holidays: call 905-953-6478.
- It is important that reporting is done immediately, as Public Health must work with the patient to ensure appropriate transportation to the hospital – either by private vehicle (preferred) or paramedic services (if symptoms warrant). Appropriate individuals at the hospital and paramedic services will be notified by public health to ensure they are equipped with infection prevention and control capacity.
- Public health needs to be informed before diagnostic specimens are collected as specific steps must be taken before specimens are collected.
- Specimens can only be handled and transported by staff trained in the collection of these types of sensitive specimens. Specimens should be transported directly to Public Health Ontario Laboratories.
- Ensure the following is in place in your practice setting:
- Adequate personal protective equipment is available (e.g., gloves, gowns and masks).
- Screen all clients coming into your office for symptoms of a communicable disease and recent travel so that prompt infection prevention control measures are implemented to protect staff and other patients.
- Always ask about travel history when conducting patient evaluations.
- If it is identified that a patient has travelled to an Ebola affected area within the past three weeks, you should notify York Region Public Health immediately. Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: call 1-877-464-9675 ext. 73588. After 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 24 hours per day on weekends/holidays: call 905-953-6478.
It is vital that health care providers suspecting Ebola contact public health immediately to complete laboratory testing for any suspect Ebola cases in partnership with local hospitals.
A wide range of viruses can cause viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF). Examples include, but are not limited to: Ebola, Marburg, Lassa, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and Rift Valley Fever virus.
If a VHF including Ebola is suspected, notify public health immediately and they will:
- Inform your local/hospital infection prevention and control team, occupational health and safety team and an infectious diseases specialist
- Inform your local/hospital laboratory management and microbiologist
- Work with you to follow a clinical assessment of risk for Ebola and/or other VHFs
- Consult with a PHO Laboratory Microbiologist available through the PHO Laboratory Customer Service Centre at 416-235-6556/1-877-604-4567, after-hours 416-605-3113, to request VHF including Ebola testing (and concomitant malaria testing if required)
- Notify paramedic services
Do not collect specimens for microbiological examination before consulting with a PHO Laboratory Microbiologist.
For more information on Ebola and other VHFs including testing recommendations, EVD/VHF testing and shipping, visit:
What York Region Public Health is doing
York Region Public Health works with local hospitals and paramedic services to ensure we are prepared. We also work closely with the Ministry of Health and Public Health Ontario to be aware of and monitor anyone returning from Ebola-affected areas.
If you have any questions on Ebola, contact York Region Public Health’s Control of Infectious Diseases team at 1-877-464-9675 ext. 73588.
Communications from York Region Public Health: