As health care workers in West Africa try to gain control of the worst outbreak of Ebola in history, fears are growing around the world that the epidemic will spread.

Several airlines have halted flights to Liberia and the threat from the deadly virus has forced two American mission groups to pull all non-essential personnel out of Africa.

Kathy Mueller, a former CTV news anchor, recently returned to Canada from Sierra Leone where she assisted the Red Cross dead body management team.

“While we were laying one person to rest, the grave next to them was being dug,” said Mueller. “It was a constant conveyor belt of burials.”

More than 1,200 people have contracted the Ebola virus in Liberia and the virus has claimed the lives of nearly 700 people.

With non-essential staff returning from Africa, there are fears the disease could spread in North America. According to Dr. Glen Armstrong, a Calgary based researcher with the Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, says there is no need for alarm as it is highly unlikely an infected individual would transmit the virus in Canada.

“Theoretically, it could,” said Dr. Armstrong. “The way it would get to Canada would be if somebody went to, say Sierra Leone, and exposed themselves to body fluids from an individual that was very sick.”

“If you come into close contact with that individual and you don’t realize that its Ebola virus and you don’t protect yourself, you don’t wash your hands or you don’t use standard infection control procedures, than you can get yourself infected.”

Armstrong says an airline passenger infected with the Ebola virus but healthy enough to board an airplane would not be in the infectious stage.

“The incubation period is anywhere from five days to two weeks, so that’s plenty of time if you have infected yourself but you’re not yet acutely ill, for you to get on an airplane and fly back to your home in Canada.”

Armstrong adds the symptoms of the Ebola virus are horrific but medical professionals would diagnose the infection in quick order and the patient would be placed in quarantine.

Symptoms of the virus during the infectious stage include:

  • Acute illness
  • Excruciating pain in the muscles and joints
  • Rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • High fever

Officials with Health Canada say there is currently no need to increase border screening for the virus, Canada has not issued a warning against travel to Liberia, and the World Health Organization has not suggested trade and travel restrictions in the West African nation.

With files from CTV's Kevin Green