Alberta’s chief medical health officer doesn’t believe health workers returning from West African countries where Ebola is prevalent should face suspicion or isolation.
“To make it clear, these people are true heroes,” said Dr. James Talbot, Chief Medical Officer of Health.
“They’re putting their lives on the line for the rest of us, and they recognize that none of us are safe – and in any country in the world none of us are completely safe until the people in those three countries are safe,” he added.
But Alberta health officials do have the power to enforce a quarantine, and have in the past.
It’s legislated under the public health act, and was used earlier this year during measles outbreaks in several parts of the province.
“For measles we do have that ability to quarantine people and restrict their activities, and that has been done when there has been a case of measles in a school for non-immunized individiuals for instance,” said Dr. Judy MacDonald of Alberta Health Services.
Last month, Alberta Health sent a letter home to parents warning them any children without immunity to diseases like measles may be barred from school for up to 21 days if they are exposed.
Health officials have the power to lay charges for anyone defying such orders.
“There is that possibility because the public health act is law, and the regulations that accompany it, including the communicable diseases regulation, is law,” added Dr. Macdonald.
When it comes to Ebola, officials maintain the risk to Canadians is low, since he disease is not airborne and people are only infectious while they are experiencing symptoms.