To describe the implementation of the Canadian contingency plan for viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) in response to a suspected case.
A 300-bed, tertiary-care, university-affiliated hospital.
A 32-year-old Congolese woman admitted to the hospital with suspected VHF in February 2001. Contact evaluation included hospital healthcare workers and laboratory staff.
Enhanced isolation precautions were implemented in the patient care setting to prevent nosocomial transmission. Contact tracing and evaluation of close and high-risk contacts with symptoms was conducted. Laboratory precautions included barrier precautions and diversion of specimens. Communication occurred to both hospital employees and the media.
Three high-risk contacts, 13 close contacts, and 60 casual contacts were identified. Two close contacts became symptomatic and required evaluation. Challenging process issues included tracing of laboratory specimens, decontamination of laboratory equipment, and internal and external communication. After 5 days, a transmissible VHF of public health consequence was ruled out in the index case.
Contingency plans for VHF can be implemented in an efficient and feasible manner. Contact tracing, laboratory issues, internal communication, and media interest can be anticipated to be the key challenges.