Employee at Winnipeg lab potentially exposed to Ebola virus

An employee at the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg may have been exposed to the Ebola virus.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease (NCFAD) is part of a laboratory complex in Winnipeg's West Alexander neighbourhood. (Google Street View)

An employee at the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg may have been exposed to the Ebola virus.

Officials with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency made the announcement on Tuesday.

They insisted there is no risk to the public or any other employees.

The affected employee, a man, was working Monday afternoon with pigs that were experimentally infected with the deadly virus. Afterwards, in the containment room, he noticed a split in the seam of his protective suit.

He is now in self-isolation and will be monitored by local public health officials for 21 days.

The employee was offered a vaccine that has been used in trials in Africa but officials would not say whether he took the medicine.

Ebola spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids or blood and can enter through broken skin or via the eyes, nose or mouth.

Dr. John Copps, director of the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease (NCFAD) would not speculate on how the suit split but said any person handling pigs would be walking around an animal pen.

He said the standard procedure is to check full body suits, at minimum, once a week. The employee had worked previously in the suit, which was new and checked rigorously, Copps said.

The man's job involved picking up anesthetized the pigs and moving them to a bench where they would be sampled.

The NCFAD is located in the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health in Winnipeg's West Alexander neighbourhood. It is part of an infectious disease laboratory complex owned and operated by the Government of Canada. 

The NCFAD's mandate is to provide scientific and laboratory services for the rapid and accurate identification and reporting of foreign animal diseases.