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'No confirmed cases' of Ebola in Canada, health officials say

Workers from Doctors Without Borders unload emergency medical supplies to deal with an Ebola outbreak in Conakry, Guinea, March 23, 2014.


A Saskatchewan man who doctors feared may have contracted the Ebola virus or another serious hemorrhagic fever has tested negative for the deadly diseases, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced on Tuesday.

The man became sick after travelling to Liberia, where health officials fear an outbreak of the Ebola virus may have spread from neighbouring Guinea.

"There are no confirmed cases of Ebola in Canada," said Sylwia Krzyszton, a spokeswoman for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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In addition to testing negative for Ebola, the man also does not have Marburg hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever or Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, the agency said.

"The risk to Canadians remains very low. In addition, the ruling out of those four hemorrhagic viruses significantly reduces the risk to the people who have been in close contact with the patient while the patient has exhibited symptoms," the agency said.

The man, who is in isolation in a Saskatoon hospital, is undergoing additional testing. One of the possible diagnoses is "a severe case of malaria," Gregory Härtl, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, said on Twitter.

The situation in Guinea, where the Ebola virus has killed at least 59 people, is the first such outbreak in West Africa in 20 years. In all, there are 86 suspected cases, of which 13 have been confirmed in lab testing, Mr. Härtl said.

Across the border in Liberia, officials are investigating five deaths suspected of having links to the Guinea outbreak of the virus. And on Tuesday, officials in neighbouring Sierra Leone said they are also investigating two suspected cases of Ebola, Agence France-Presse reported.

The possible spread of Ebola across borders would mark a significant setback in efforts to control the outbreak, which health workers fear could overtax Guinea and its neighbours, which are poor with limited medical facilities. The disease causes severe fever, vomiting and bleeding with a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent.

"Communities in the affected region stretch across the borders and people move freely within this area. This poses a serious risk of the epidemic becoming widespread with devastating consequences," said Ibrahima Toure, Guinea's country director for the aid group Plan International.

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International health organizations have sent teams to the region to help contain the outbreak. The World Health Organization said it is dispatching experts to help ministry officials in Guinea. Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, has set up two isolation centres in southern Guinea and was sending mobile teams into the surrounding countryside Tuesday in search of people who may have been infected.

The Ebola virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals, including through consumption of meat from infected primates, and can later spread through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. It can also spread during communal funerals where mourners have direct contact with the body of an Ebola victim.

Ebola was first identified in 1976 in Sudan and Congo and is named for the river where it was recognized. Outbreaks were reported in Congo and Uganda in 2012.

With a report from The Associated Press.

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