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Visit to West Africa highlights Canada’s contributions to global response efforts

April 20, 2015 - Ottawa - Public Health Agency of Canada

Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, returned to Canada today after spending a week in West Africa. The visit was an opportunity to observe the evolving situation and needs on the ground as global efforts continue to reach zero Ebola cases.

The Canadian visit focussed on treatment and prevention efforts in Sierra Leone and Guinea, where Dr. Taylor was able to see first-hand the work being done and hear from those on the front-lines about their experiences in providing essential care and prevention support. Some highlights included:

  • Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières Ebola treatment centres, where patient triage and screening processes, as well as vigilant sanitation procedures are in place to prevent transmission of the virus;
  • A Public Health Agency of Canada mobile laboratory in Magburaka, Sierra Leone, that provides rapid, on-site Ebola diagnostic support allowing for faster diagnosis and isolation of Ebola cases and patient care, and meeting with two recently deployed Agency staff onsite in Guinea to set up a new mobile lab; 
  • The Kerry Town Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone, where Canadian Armed Forces doctors, nurses, medics and support staff are working alongside their UK counterparts to treat healthcare workers who have been exposed to the Ebola virus;
  • A command centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where a PHAC epidemiologist demonstrated the surveillance and contact tracing work being done with the World Health Organization;
  • The National Emergency Operation Centre in Guinea, where Agency staff are providing emergency management support; and
  • Treatment, diagnostic and border screening operations in Forecariah, Guinea—an area still fighting active Ebola transmission.

Meetings with country officials —including His Excellency Mohamed Said Fofana, Prime Minister of Guinea—as well as roundtables with international and national humanitarian organizations and agencies involved in the Ebola response in West Africa  provided opportunities to learn about the successes, challenges and lessons learned from the response so far. These discussions also provided valuable insight on what to expect in the months ahead as response efforts shift to getting to zero cases and, ultimately, to recovery. This information will help the Government of Canada determine how best to leverage its capacity and expertise to meet the evolving needs in the region.

Conrad Sauvé, President and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross, and Stephen Cornish, Executive Director of Médecins Sans Frontières Canada, joined Dr. Taylor for many of the discussions with other organizations and visits of operations, contributing to the Canadian perspective about the response.

Quick Facts

  • To date, Canada has committed more than $110 million to support health, humanitarian and security interventions to respond to the outbreak and for further research and development of Ebola medical countermeasures.
  • Canada’s comprehensive approach includes financial, technical and in-kind contributions. These efforts seek to:
    • help stop the outbreak,
    • treat the infected,
    • meet the increasing humanitarian needs arising from the crisis, and
    • reduce associated threats to health and security.
  • The Government of Canada has also provided in-kind support and donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) and of Canada's VSV-EBOV Ebola vaccine. Our researchers were instrumental in developing this vaccine, as well as ZMapp, a promising Ebola treatment.
  • Eleven clinical trials have been conducted or are currently ongoing world-wide using Canada’s VSV-EBOV Ebola vaccine—one of the leading vaccine candidates currently in clinical trials. Eight of these have been Phase 1 trials and three are Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials.
  • In June 2014, a mobile laboratory from the NML was deployed to West Africa to provide diagnostic capabilities to rapidly detect Ebola cases and provide clinical information to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières physicians. Since then, a total of 17 mobile laboratory teams have been deployed to the region.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces have been operating in Sierra Leone, as part of Operation SIRONA, since December 2014. A third rotation of personnel is currently preparing to relieve the second group of CAF military doctors, nurses, medics, and support and command staff at the UK’s Kerry Town Treatment Unit.

Quotes

“As the epidemic evolves and begins to shift from response to early recovery, Canada continues to work with key partners.  I was able to witness the progress that has been made by the relentless efforts of Canadians contributing to the coordinated responses in West Africa of the governments, humanitarian agencies and the communities themselves, but there is still more to do.  I am immensely proud after being on the ground and we will continue to fight against Ebola.   
Dr. Gregory Taylor
Chief Public Health Officer

“Canada has been a leader in the Ebola response, thanks in large part to the tremendous efforts of our team of Canadians supporting the global effort to bring the current Ebola outbreak to an end. I was pleased to have had the opportunity to call in and speak with some of those working in Guinea this past week and convey our admiration and appreciation for their efforts.  We will continue to work with our domestic and international partners to protect and promote global public health at home and abroad.” 
The Honourable Rona Ambrose
Minister of Health

“Our teams at the forefront of the Ebola response deserve our collective thanks and encouragement. At the same time, affected families and communities need our unwavering support to end this outbreak and recover from the toll it has taken, and our tours and discussions of the past week were exceptionally valuable in advancing that work.”
Conrad Sauvé
President and CEO, Canadian Red Cross

"Ebola continues to be of grave concern in West Africa, as even with just one patient the outbreak continues. Any complacency now would jeopardise the progress made. We are therefore pleased to have met with Canadian officials in Sierra Leone and Guinea to discuss our on-going concerns and focus on reaching the goal of zero Ebola cases in this region."
Stephen Cornish
Executive Director, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières Canada

Associated Links

Contacts

Michael Bolkenius
Office of the Honourable Rona Ambrose
Federal Minister of Health
(613) 957-0200

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada
(613) 957-2983


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