Winnipeg lab employee potentially exposed to Ebola - November 7, 2016

On November 7, 2016, a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) employee was potentially exposed to the Ebola Virus after handling an infected pig at a containment level 4 (CL4) laboratory at the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease (NCFAD) in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Emergency protocols for accidental exposure were immediately implemented following the incident.

As a preventative measure, the employee was administered an Ebola vaccine and was placed in self-isolation for 21 days, which ended on November 28, 2016. The employee complied with the protocols and monitoring regime set by Manitoba Public Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). The employee did not show any symptoms during the isolation period and has been cleared to return to work.

The CFIA took action after the initial incident to further strengthen measures to protect its employees, including implementing new procedures for equipment verification, amendments to protocols, and additional training for all employees of the CL4 laboratory.

The CFIA and the PHAC have conducted an internal joint quality assurance/safety review of this incident. In addition, an internal Occupational Health and Safety review has also been completed.

The reviews found that the CFIA used protocols which complied with international standards for CL4 laboratories. Given the nature of the work done at the NCFAD facility, the CFIA is opting to be more stringent with its processes in a number of areas to further enhance safety measures for employees. These include for example:

  • Enhancing the CFIA suit testing procedures.
  • Shortening the life cycle of the suits (less than 5 years) and only using suits less than 2-3 years for animal work, and enhancing the current system that tracks their use.
  • Improving documentation and record keeping for entry/exit procedures.
  • Enhancing the training of biocontainment laboratory staff and improving the tracking system to monitor training.
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