What is Ebola?
According the World Health Organization, Ebola virus disease (EVD) is “a severe, often fatal illness, with a case fatality rate of up to 90%. It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. During an outbreak, those at higher risk of infection are health workers, family members and others in close contact with sick people and deceased patients.”
Is the Canadian blood supply safe from Ebola?
While Canadian Blood Services does not currently test for the Ebola virus, we have assessed the potential risk to our products and services.
Fortunately, the risk to the Canadian blood system remains extremely low. The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a travel health notice discouraging Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. All four of the affected countries are also malaria-endemic countries. Travellers that have visited malaria-endemic countries are deferred from giving blood for a minimum of one year ̶ far longer than the two-to 21-day incubation period of the Ebola virus.
Is it still safe to give blood?
Our staff, volunteers and donors attending blood donor clinics are extremely unlikely to come into direct contact with anyone in the contagious phase of the illness. There is no chronic, asymptomatic carrier state for Ebola. Transmission is essentially direct contact with blood or body fluid of an infected person who is in the terminal febrile stage of illness. Such a person would be too ill to consider donating at a clinic.
Should a traveler suspected of carrying Ebola return to Canada, the highest biosafety level (BSL-4) would be required for all health care workers providing care or handling potentially infectious substances.
The World Health Organization is monitoring the outbreak and provides updated surveillance reports.