Winnipeg lab to boost precautions for workers after Ebola virus incident

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it’s increasing safety measures after a lab employee was potentially exposed to the Ebola virus in Winnipeg last month.

On Nov. 7, an agency employee was potentially exposed to the virus after handling an infected pig at the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease (NCFAD) in Winnipeg.

The worker noticed a split in his suit’s seam during shower and decontamination procedures before exiting the lab.

The employee received an experimental Ebola vaccine as a preventative measure, completed 21 days of self-isolation and was released.

Both the CFIA and Public Health Agency of Canada conducted an internal review into the incident and an occupational health and safety review was also done.

“The reviews found that the CFIA used protocols which complied with international standards for [Level 4] laboratories,” CFIA said in a statement on Monday.

The facility is one of only a handful of North American labs capable of handling pathogens that require the highest level of containment, such as the Ebola virus and avian influenza.

Given the nature of the work at the lab, CFIA said it’s choosing stricter procedures to protect employees, including: 

  • Enhancing the suit testing procedures.
  • Shortening the life cycle of suits to fewer than 5 years and even shorter for animal work.
  • Improving documentation and record keeping for entry/exit procedures from the lab.
  • Enhancing the training of biocontainment laboratory staff and improving the tracking system to monitor training.

In March, WHO declared that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was no longer a global health risk.

The disease is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids. 

More than 11,000 people have died from the disease since December 2013, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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CBC | Health News