A man who recently traveled to West Africa is seriously ill and being kept in isolation in a Canadian hospital with symptoms of a hemorrhagic fever resembling the Ebola virus, Saskatchewan health officials said.
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The man fell ill after returning from the West African nation of Liberia, Dr. Denise Werker, Saskatchewan Province's deputy chief medical health officer, said Monday. She said tests have been sent to the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Results are expected Tuesday, but Werker said they may be inconclusive.
"All we know at this point is that we have a person who is critically ill who traveled from a country where these diseases occur," Werker said. "There is no risk to the general public at all about this."
In West Africa, health workers are trying to contain an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus which is believed to have killed at least 59 people in a remote forest region in the south of Guinea. In neighboring Liberia, health officials are investigating five deaths after a group of people crossed the border from Guinea in search of medical treatment.
Werker said health workers caring for the man at a hospital in the city of Saskatoon were taking precautions by wearing masks, gowns, gloves and boots. She said hemorrhagic fevers are not easily spread.
Hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola can be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions. The Ebola virus leads to severe hemorrhagic fever and internal bleeding and has no vaccine or specific treatment.
Werker said the man showed no signs of illness while he was traveling. The incubation period for hemorrhagic fever is up to 21 days, she said.
"Viral hemorrhagic fever is a generic name for a number of rather exotic diseases that are found in Africa," Werker said. This class of diseases includes Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever and yellow fever.