Watch above: Threat of Ebola widens and prompts push for public awareness
SASKATOON – It’s been known to cross borders; Ebola has claimed the lives of thousands of people and the concern level of Canadians who believe Ebola will come here is rising.
It was first identified in 1976 in western Africa and 38 years later it has become a world pandemic.
“We still don’t know definitively where does Ebola come from, it sort of rears it’s head every few years and then goes away and it’s thought that it’s present in animal populations, Fruit bats in particular,” said Dr. Andrew Potter, Vido-InterVac CEO and director.
Right now, it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. Over 4,400 people have died from Ebola since the spring, killing more people then all previous outbreaks.
“It’s one of the so called group of hemorrhagic fever and it really just describes the outcome of infection, it’s a particularly nasty one that can kill 50 percent or more of the people that are infected,” said Potter.
According to an Ipsos Reid poll, Canadians are becoming more concerned about the spread of Ebola to Canada; 79 percent. Potter down plays the risk, as it’s not very contagious, frequently transmitted by contact with bodily fluids and adds North America has the resources to better treat it.
“The chances of somebody in Canada contracting Ebola virus is very very remote, it’s not zero chance but it’s approaching zero. There’s many other things I’d be worried about, far greater than the Ebola virus,” said Potter.
There haven’t been any confirmed cases of Ebola so far in the country and Potter thinks the concern could increase as we get into influenza season.
“The symptoms again in many ways are like flu; you get a fever, you might have an upset stomach, so there would be vomiting, diarrhea, things that are symptomatic of a wide variety of diseases, so it’s very difficult at the beginning to differentiate Ebola from influenza or diseases like that,” said Potter.
Currently there is no cure for Ebola, experimental clinical trials for a vaccine are underway. Potter hopes the global community can discover a solution, if not this time, soon because the virus will be back.
While symptoms for Ebola are similar to the flu, Potter says if the person has a connection to Africa, it’s not a bad idea to get checked out.