Notification of Health Information from the University

PDAD&C # 16, 2014-15

To:  PDAD&C 
From:     Jill Matus, Vice-Provost, Students & First-Entry Divisions
Angela Hildyard, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity
Date:  August 28, 2014 


Notification of Health Information from the University

The University of Toronto in consultation with Toronto Public Health has become aware of some health information that it wishes to communicate to certain of its students, staff and faculty. The Canadian Government has advised that an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa is ongoing with cases and deaths continuing to be reported in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. This letter aims to provide you with information and a guideline on what to do if you have travelled from the following countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, or Nigeria.

The University of Toronto is proud to welcome, educate and host individuals from West Africa. We wish to express our sympathy to those from the region who have been affected by these events. For students, staff and faculty who have family and friends in West Africa, we recognize this must be a difficult time. Should you require support and would like to speak with a counsellor, students can attend any of our counselling services on campus and employees can contact our EFAP provider. Contact information for these services is provided below.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention provide information for the public outlined below about the Ebola virus and how it is transmitted. It is important to note that just because someone has travelled to or from the countries in West Africa, it does not mean they have Ebola.  The CDCP guidance states:

The current Ebola outbreak is centered on four countries in West Africa: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, although there is the potential for further spread to neighbouring African countries. 

What is Ebola?
Ebola virus is the cause of a viral haemorrhagic fever disease. Symptoms include: fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite, and abnormal bleeding. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola virus though 8-10 days is most common.

How is Ebola transmitted?
Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected symptomatic person or through exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

Can Ebola be transmitted through the air?
No. Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu, so it is not transmitted through the air.

Can I get Ebola from contaminated food or water?
No. Ebola is not a food-borne illness. It is not a water-borne illness.

Can I get Ebola from a person who is infected but doesn’t have any symptoms?
No. Individuals who are not symptomatic are not contagious. In order for the virus to be transmitted, an individual would have to have direct contact with an individual who is experiencing symptoms. Ebola is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, not through casual contact.

Can I attend classes and other university activities if I have recently returned from West Africa?
Yes. Students who are well should attend classes and other university activities as usual.

The Public Health Agency of Canada as of August 12th, 2014 has stated if you are arriving from one of the countries in the list above you are asked to do the following:

Seek medical attention immediately from the hospital, if a fever and/or any other symptoms, such as severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain, arise within three weeks after your return to Canada. Tell your health care provider that you have travelled to a region where Ebola virus disease was present and tell them about the activities or work you participated in.

We wish to reiterate that according to the Public Health Agency of Canada “there are no confirmed cases of Ebola in Canada, and the risk to Canadians remains very low.” The World Health Organization has stated that the “Ebola virus itself does not spread easily from person to person. It is not like the flu. It is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, not through casual contact.”

Further information can be found on the following websites: 

St. George Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 416-978-8070
UTM Health and Counselling Centre (HCC) 905-828-5255
UTSC Health and Wellness Centre 416-287-7065
Employee and Family Assistance- for employees and their families 1-800-668-9920