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Prime Minister Stephen Harper is warning Canadians about the potential for the spread of Ebola, saying that much like polio the disease must not be underestimated.

Speaking at an award ceremony in Toronto on Saturday, Harper said the current situation with Ebola reminds us that in an age of globalization, global trade and travel, a problem that was once far away from Canada "could arrive at our shores very quickly."

The World Health Organization says the Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa.

But Ontario's interim chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Mowat, said Friday that the risk of transmission of the Ebola virus disease is very low in Canada.

The World Health Organization announced this week the experimental Canadian Ebola vaccine that has been donated to the agency would be shipped to Geneva on Monday.

Eradicating polio

Harper was presented with the Rotary Foundation Polio Eradication Champion Award for his efforts to eliminate polio globally, and said that in many countries, including Canada, polio was once a "devastating illness" for thousands of people every year but has now been virtually eliminated as a common concern.

Harper accepted the award on behalf of the Government of Canada, which he says has championed polio eradication for 25 years and added the world is close to fully eradicating the disease.

He said it was the generosity and support of Canadians that has led to great progress toward the elimination of polio, due to the fact that Canadians have supported the initiative and related efforts on maternal and child and newborn health generously over the past few years.

Harper said Canadians must continue to fight to secure the eradication of polio in the few places where it remains globally, and adds the disease is still a threat that requires the continued immunization of Canadians, which has been key to the success of the near-eradication of the disease.

With files from CBC News