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Canadian Safety Supplies
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Industrial Supplier of First Aid and Safety Products
Industrial Supplier of First Aid and Safety Products

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1/30/17
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Ebola in Canada?  It’s possible (but not likely). Should you be prepared?

Western Africa is in the middle of the worst Ebola outbreak in history, the most deadly infectious disease known to man. The situation is dire for Africa, where the death toll could  soon reach into the thousands, though there is little chance that this will turn into a global pandemic. What is the risk for Canadians, if any?


Ebola is spread through bodily fluids (and tissue), including blood and feces.  When the victim is in the contagious phase of the disease, these bodily fluids can spread the virus to anyone who comes into contact with them. In a recent case, an airline passenger, who flew from Liberia to Nigeria (en route to Minnesota) with stopovers in Ghana and Togo, had the disease and was bleeding, vomiting and had diarrhea on several flights; he died last week.  Any passenger on those flights who came into contact with those fluids is at risk both of catching the disease and of spreading it further abroad. His fellow passengers were warned of their potential risk and then they were allowed to leave; they were not quarantined, though the governments of Liberia, Ghana and Togo are now trying to trace them. While the risk is low, we could see a case in Canada, or we could see the Public Health Agency of Canada quarantine Canadians who have traveled to affected areas or have been in contact with anyone who is suspected to have Ebola.


There are no travel restrictions in place to and from the affected West African nations, and health officials are having difficulty keeping track of all those with the disease.  Also, many people are evading quarantine and looking for help outside of official channels (such as traditional healers), so someone with Ebola could very well board a plane looking to find treatment elsewhere.  As of today (July 31), airports remain open, and it is left to airlines to cut routes to affected areas and screen passengers before boarding.  Most flights leaving this part of Africa pass through France, a major hub that serves the entire globe, though there are direct flights to the USA.


What can you do? There is very little risk for persons in Canada and we do not recommend any special precautions, but if you are planning on traveling to Africa or through France, there is a real chance you could find yourself on an airplane with someone who has the virus, either incubating it or in its contagious phase. Health officials in affected countries are overwhelmed, though they are starting to quarantine entire villages and pursue contagious persons more aggressively, but there is an up to 21-day incubation period and symptoms might not appear until during a flight.  Both Canada and the USA maintain that we are at very low risk here in North America, as the virus does not ‘spread like wildfire’ (the virus does not aerosolize well, or transmit through the air; unlike SARS that caused Canada to update our public policy for dealing with infectious diseases).  


The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a Level 2 Travel Advisory, recommending special precautions if you travel to the area. Avoid contact with persons (alive or dead) who might have Ebola (including unprotected sex and sharing needles), avoid close contact with live or dead animals such as Chimpanzees and especially bats (including raw or undercooked meat) as they may be carriers, and learn the symptoms of Ebola so you can see a health care provider on your return, and inform air travel and border officials should you show any signs yourself. 


Travelers should carry some basic protection items: a face mask and hand cleansing wipes should anyone around them show signs of illness, and sanitizing wipes for when they must come into contact with surfaces touched by others.  These are essential travel items for anyone, not just when deadly contagious diseases make the news.  These are besides the routine travel First Aid items the PHAC recommends travelers carry, which you can find in our Everyday Protection section of First Aid kits:

• Adhesive bandages (multiple sizes) and adhesive tape
• Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
• Antiseptic wound cleanser (for example, alcohol or iodine pads)
• Blister pads or moleskin
• Disposable latex or vinyl gloves
• Gauze
• Packets of oral rehydration salts
• Safety pins and scissors
• Tensor bandages for sprains
• Thermometer
• Tweezers for removing ticks, splinters etc.

These basic items can easily be found at your local pharmacy, or Canadian Safety Supplies does have an affordable Pandemic Prevention Kit especially designed for travelers that may be carried on your person at all times, besides our line of personal & family kits for a variety of outdoor activities. We are designing a more comprehensive protection kit for those who wish to protect those in their home from any and all emergencies, or who are concerned about surviving a major pandemic affecting North America.  Please check back in a few days and see our New Products announcements on Facebook and our blog on Google+!

By Jody Blair Sumner, July 31, 2014

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