Canadian relief as Ebola virus threat passes

Tests reveal woman does not have deadly disease
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The Independent US

Test results have soothed fears that the deadly Ebola virus could be making its first appearance in North America by way of a Congolese woman who fell ill shortly after arriving in Canada.

Test results have soothed fears that the deadly Ebola virus could be making its first appearance in North America by way of a Congolese woman who fell ill shortly after arriving in Canada.

Health officials said that test results from a laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, showed the woman is not suffering from the virus. But officials will continue to monitor at least 16 people - 14 hospital workers and two of the woman's friends - who had contact with her since she arrived in Canada on Saturday.

"Those are preliminary results. Viral isolation is still ongoing," Dr Mark Lobe, an expert in infectious diseases at Henderson Hospital in Hamilton, told a news conference Wednesday. Hospital workers looked on anxiously as he spoke.

The woman was hospitalized on Sunday night, and has thus far been diagnosed with malaria. Doctors are studying the possibility she has some sort of hemorrhagic fever. Tests are still underway in Winnipeg and at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The woman remained in serious condition but was showing signs of improvement, doctors said.

The federal government had enacted a contingency plan for contagious viruses after discovering that possibility, but now believe the danger of her sickness spreading is minimal. The 32-year-old woman - she cannot be identified under privacy laws - has been quarantined since Monday.

A recent Ebola outbreak in Uganda killed 173 of the more than 400 people infected.

The woman arrived on Saturday in Toronto from Newark, New Jersey, on an Air Canada flight, airline spokeswoman Laura Cooke said. The flight had 39 passengers and five crew members. Her flight had arrived in New Jersey from Ethiopia, but it was not clear how she got to Ethiopia from Congo, The Toronto Star newspaper reported. She apparently came to Canada on a legitimate visitor's visa.

Canadian health authorities asked for a list of passengers on the flight, but also "advised us they do not consider this passenger to be contagious for casual contact," Cooke said.

Doctors said she has not shown signs of bleeding from the ears, eyes or mouth - conditions that would suggest the Ebola virus that can be lethal in more than 50 percent of cases.

But hospital workers said they were still worried and hadn't been given any official instructions on what to do.

"There's people now with their lives on hold, waiting to know what to do," said Debra Mattina, an X-ray technician and union representative. "We haven't been told whether we can kiss our husbands or send our kids to day care."

Ebola and the other hemorrhagic fevers are not transmitted through the air. Infection occurs through direct contact with the infected person's blood or bodily fluids such as saliva or semen, and only after they have exhibited symptoms such as fever and malaise.

That's why it was a relief for health officials to learn that the woman did not fall visibly ill until after arriving in Hamilton on Saturday night.

Lobe and others insisted there was little chance that the disease would spread and almost no possibility of a widescale outbreak.

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