Speech Article from  Public Health Agency of Canada

Archived - Speaking Notes for the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health - FIRST CASE OF EBOLA IN THE U.S.

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October 1, 2014

Banff, Alberta


Good morning,

I am Rona Ambrose, Canada’s Minister of Health.  I am joined today by Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada’s newly appointed Chief Public Health Officer.

I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Taylor throughout the past year.  He has earned the trust and confidence of the international community and his public health colleagues across the country. Many of you will know Dr. Taylor, from the steady guidance he provided during H5N1 and now Ebola.

Yesterday, our colleagues at the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of Ebola in North America.

We are here today first and foremost to reassure Canadians that the risk still remains very low and we have strong measures in place to protect Canadians.

Yesterday, the Public Health Agency of Canada was made aware of the individual diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

This individual did NOT travel through Canada.

As well, this person was not symptomatic, and therefore not contagious, during their travel to the United States.

Today, we want to remind Canadians that the Ebola virus does not spread easily from person to person. 

Ebola is spread through direct contact with an individual with symptoms; it is not spread through casual contact, it is not like the flu. 

I’d like to also mention the work we are doing here at home to protect Canadians.

Canada is well prepared with a number of systems in place to identify and prevent the spread of serious infectious diseases like Ebola.

All points of entry into Canada are routinely monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  This is done through the provisions of our Quarantine Act.

There are no direct flights into Canada from the affected countries in Africa.  At the border, Canada Border Services Agency screens people coming from African countries affected by the outbreak.

Through our National Microbiology Laboratory we are extremely well connected with provincial labs to ensure Canada is ready to detect and respond quickly if necessary.  This means that in the chance there are suspected cases, we can quickly TEST and take appropriate action.

In Canada we are extremely fortunate that we have some of the best hospitals in world.  This includes the care for infectious diseases, as well as strong infection control systems in place to protect against the spread of disease.

If there was ever a confirmed case, the Public Health Agency of Canada would immediately advise the public and ensure all appropriate precautions are taken to protect Canadians.

I want to reiterate that the risk of Ebola to Canadians remains very low.  And Canadians can be proud of the efforts we are doing to help fight this outbreak where it is concentrated in West Africa.

Abroad, Canada is at the forefront of the Ebola outbreak response and has been providing aid since April.  

Canada has contributed over $35 million.  This funding is going to groups like the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières and the World Health Organization.

With this funding organizations are working around the clock to improve treatment of those affected by Ebola, including in smaller community care locations for those without access to treatment.

This funding is also being used to improve prevention efforts across the affected regions, including social mobilization and health education to prevent the disease from spreading further.

And finally, this funding is also assisting humanitarian efforts to support affected communities with important services like nutritional assistance during this outbreak.

However, Canada’s contributions do not stop there.  

We have deployed a mobile laboratory staffed with rotating teams of Canadian scientists, and supplies from the National Microbiology Laboratory to Sierra Leone since June 2014.

The current team of two Agency scientists continues to run a mobile laboratory to provide rapid diagnostic support.  The team is working alongside local health officials, Médecins Sans Frontières, and the World Health Organization.

Rapid diagnostic support is FUNDAMENTAL to curbing this outbreak.  The sooner people are diagnosed, the quicker they can be treated and isolated accordingly.  This ultimately will help slow the spread.

Our Government, also recently announced that we would make available for donation personal protective equipment and 800-1000 doses of the experimental vaccine known as VSV-EBOV.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is providing the vaccine to the WHO in its role as an international coordinating body, in the hopes that the doses can be made available as an international resource.

Just last week, I was in Washington, where I attended the Global Health Security Agenda Meeting.  I met with Dr. Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization and US Secretary of Health and Human Services Burwell to discuss Ebola and our efforts to stop this outbreak.

Canada is proud to be on the Global Health Security Agenda Steering Group and provide scientific leadership and expertise.

Our Government will continue to ensure Canadians are protected and safe and that we continue to assist in this devastating outbreak.

Before, I turn it over to Dr. Taylor, I want to say thank you to Stephen Cornish from Médecins Sans Frontières, whom I had the pleasure of meeting with a few weeks ago.

The MSF along with organizations like the Red Cross, Samaritans Purse and others are doing tremendous work and deserve to be applauded.

The actions I have listed are the steps we are taking as a Government, but there are many Canadians and non-governmental organizations that are stepping up and helping to fight this outbreak.

I want to say thank you, on behalf of myself and the Prime Minister.

I will now turn it over to Dr. Taylor and then we’ll be happy to take your questions.

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