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Georgi Licovski / EPA

Canada takes steps to limit Ebola

Canada will impose self-monitoring and quarantine measures on travelers from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa

The Canadian government is tightening restrictions on travelers from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa by imposing self-monitoring and quarantine measures.

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The policy announced Monday applies to all travelers from Ebola-affected countries. But because Canada has already stopped issuing visas to residents and nationals of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the policy will mostly apply to returning health-care workers and people who work for humanitarian aid groups.

The move comes a month after the United States began enhanced screening of travelers from the same three countries.

Mandatory quarantines imposed by some U.S. states on doctors and nurses returning from Ebola-ravaged countries have already created a "chilling effect" on aid work in West Africa, the humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has warned.

The medical charity said restrictions imposed by several states have prompted it to discuss whether to shorten deployments.

Canadian authorities say high-risk travelers will be required to self-isolate at home or at "a facility," preferably near designated treatment centers in each province, for the 21-day incubation period. Travelers deemed low-risk who had no known exposure to Ebola would be required to self-monitor for 21 days, including twice-a-day temperature checks.

Passengers are already screened when they depart from the three West African countries.

The policy statement by the Public Health Agency of Canada did not specify what kind of facility should handle high-risk travelers, or who would decide which of the options would apply to a particular case.

Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada's chief public health officer, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The new rules, which took effect Monday, create two classes of travelers from West Africa: high risk and low risk.

The rules apply to people who are not evidently ill when they arrive in Canada, but might be incubating the disease. Anyone who is ill with symptoms consistent with Ebola would be isolated until tests determine if the person is infected.

Returning health-care workers will not be automatically slotted into the high-risk category. Instead, the guidelines say local public health authorities can decide on a case-by-case basis whether to require a returning medical worker to go into quarantine in their home or in a facility for 21 days.

The statement suggests that a health-care worker who had been exposed to Ebola after having a breach in their personal protective equipment may be considered high risk.

Al Jazeera with Reuters

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