Description

Ebola virus disease (EVD or Ebola) is a serious viral infection that can cause hemorrhagic fever.

Outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The outbreak of EVD announced in August 2018 is still ongoing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In June 2019, EVD cases were reported in Uganda. These cases are linked to the ongoing outbreak in the DRC. Since then, no other case of EVD has been detected in Uganda.

Although the World Health Organization (WHO), on July 17, 2019, declared the outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern, the risk of worldwide propagation of EVD remains low.

The WHO and its partners continue to work with the Government of the DRC to improve the country’s ability to prevent cases, recognize them quickly, treat them and reduce the risk of transmission, in particular through the identification, surveillance and vaccination of contact cases and safe burial procedures.

Very low risk of transmission in Québec

No cases of Ebola virus disease have been reported in Québec or Canada.

At present, risk of the Ebola virus being introduced by travellers is very low owing to the low number of Canadians in the affected region and the relatively low number of travellers between the DRC and Canada.

Even if a case of Ebola virus disease is confirmed in Québec, the risk of it spreading remains very low. Conditions in Québec are less likely to cause transmission of the virus in the community, as is the case in Africa (funeral rituals, contacts with bats, sanitary conditions, etc.).

Risks for travellers

Travellers might be exposed to Ebola virus disease if they participate, in the regions affected, in activities that could put them in contact with the infected blood or bodily fluids of an affected person. For example:

  • during delivery of healthcare;
  • during participation in funeral rituals, such as a burial ceremony;
  • or during sexual contact.

Also, travellers might be exposed to Ebola virus disease if they are in contact with infected animals in the regions affected, by consuming the meat of wild animals, for example.

Symptoms

Early symptoms come on suddenly:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Heavy fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches

Other symptoms may appear after a few days, such as vomiting, diarrhea, rash, external bleeding (e.g., from the nose and gums), and internal bleeding (e.g. bruising, blood in urine or stool). A third of people infected with the Ebola virus may experience bleeding in various parts of their bodies. Such bleeding occurs several days after the onset of symptoms. The percentage of deaths associated with the disease is closely related to the quality of infrastructure and health system in the countries affected.

Symptoms of Ebola virus disease most often appear between 2 to 21 days after infection.

If you have travelled to an area affected by the EVD during the last 21 days and have the symptoms described, call Info-Santé at 811. A nurse will evaluate your health and make recommendations based on your condition.

Treatment

Treatment consists mainly of relieving symptoms. Experimental treatments and vaccines are being developed and may be used in specific situations.

Transmission

Ebola virus disease is transmissible. An infected person becomes contagious only when he or she develops symptoms. The person becomes increasingly contagious as the disease progresses because the fluids being lost as the symptoms worsen (blood, vomiting, diarrhea, urine) are also infected. It is also possible that the Ebola virus persists in some bodily fluids (e.g., semen) for an undetermined period after surviving the disease. As a result, certain precautionary measures are recommended for people in close contact with survivors of the disease, during sexual contact, for instance.

A person can therefore contract the Ebola virus if they come into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual. Contact may occur through mucous membranes for instance (mouth, nose, eyes or genital organs), or a wound on the skin and:

  • The bodily fluids of the person infected with the Ebola virus (blood, semen, vomiting, urine, etc.)
  • A surface or object contaminated with the bodily fluids of a person infected with the Ebola virus

There is no known risk to meet with people coming from affected countries if they do not have symptoms of Ebola virus disease. Similarly, people who have been in contact with individuals coming from a country where there is an outbreak of EVD pose no risk to those around them.

Protection and prevention

Even though it is unlikely that the spread of Ebola virus disease occurs in Québec, it is recommended that you follow tips for preventing transmission of viruses and bacteria.

Vaccination

A vaccine (rVSV-ZEBOV), developed by researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory, is waiting to be licensed by Canadian regulatory authorities. Studies show that the vaccine is very effective in preventing Ebola virus infection when used before and immediately after exposure to the virus.

However, because this vaccine is neither licensed nor marketed in Canada, it is currently unavailable for travellers who visit the regions affected.

In the context of management of the outbreak in the DRC, however, the vaccine may be offered to humanitarian workers who travel to the regions affected by Ebola virus disease or regions where the risk of propagation is high.

Moreover, until the vaccine is no longer considered experimental, people who travel to the regions affected must be subject to the same monitoring and control procedures as those who have not been vaccinated.

Travel health notices

The Government Canada recommends that people travelling to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) practise special health precautions.

Due to the current political and security situation, the Government of Canada recommends that Canadians:

  • avoid all non-essential travel to the DRC;
  • and avoid all travel to the eastern and northeastern areas of the DRC, including the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri.

For the entire list of recommendations, see the page Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo This hyperlink will open in a new window. on the Government of Canada website.

Measures imposed at Canadian borders

Considering the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo, only the usual measures in the Quarantine Act, particularly for symptomatic travellers arriving in Canada, are applied at present.