Public Health Agency of Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada

September 17, 2007 11:08 ET

Canada Deploys Mobile Laboratory to Assist in Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA--(Marketwire - Sept. 17, 2007) - Scientists from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) are travelling to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today to provide assistance in that country's outbreak of Ebola virus. The virus, a highly contagious type of haemorrhagic fever, is thought to have infected 372 people in the DRC and 166 people have died.

"Contributing to global public health is important," said Health Minister Tony Clement. "Infectious diseases do not respect borders, so it's crucial that we work together to limit their spread and impact on the global community."

At the request of the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, PHAC officials from the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg will be setting up a mobile laboratory in the affected region to provide rapid diagnostic support. PHAC scientists will be conducting rapid diagnosis to differentiate between illnesses with similar symptoms. This will ensure that those infected with Ebola receive treatment for their symptoms and are isolated to reduce the risk of transmission.

"At the Public Health Agency of Canada, we have a responsibility to share our experience and expertise with our international partners," said Dr. David Butler-Jones, Chief Public Health Officer. "In the past, our emergency response teams have been mobilized around the world to help control the spread of infectious diseases. Our teams have extensive field experience providing assistance to the most remote areas of the world."

PHAC's mobile labs have previously been deployed to Angola, Vietnam and China to respond to public health emergencies including Marburg fever, avian influenza and SARS. PHAC has two complete mobile labs available for deployment at all times, and all of the items required for the lab are designed to be easily and safely transported.

The PHAC scientists travelling to the DRC are leading the way on research into viral haemorrhagic fevers. This team is developing an Ebola vaccine that is very promising for use not only as a preventative measure, but also as treatment after infection. This development could be useful in controlling and treating future outbreaks of Ebola.

BACKGROUNDER:

National Microbiology Lab Mobile Laboratory

The National Microbiology Lab (NML) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has a mobile laboratory capacity that is prepared to deploy on very short notice to assist around the world in public health crises.

At the request of the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Outbreak and Response Network (GOARN, teams of two to four PHAC scientists are deployed with the mobile lab. The PHAC teams work closely with the WHO, as well as the government of the affected country and other partners responding to the situation. The mobile lab can also be used within Canada when laboratory support is needed in remote areas.

PHAC has two complete mobile labs available for deployment at all times, and all of the items required for the lab are designed to be easily and safely transported. The situation at hand will dictate the types of equipment the team brings with them to the site, particularly the type of diagnostic tests that will be required and the services and infrastructure that will be available locally. Each mobile lab includes an isolator, a microscope, various test kits, a real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) unit for rapid virus detection, a generator, a laptop computer designed to withstand difficult conditions (humidity, dust, heat), and a satellite phone.

PHAC's highly trained scientists have extensive field experience working in the most remote areas of the world. The team is well versed in the appropriate safety measures for handling potentially infected materials and they are able to work safely in the most high-risk situations. Each member receives all appropriate immunizations and their health is monitored according to a prearranged plan following the mission.

In the past, the mobile lab has been called on to respond to outbreaks such as SARS in China and Hong Kong, Marburg virus in Angola, Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nipah in Bangladesh.

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Contact Information

  • Public Health Agency of Canada
    Elaine Krawchenko
    204-789-5046