With 7,711 confirmed cases worldwide – 27 of which are in Ontario – the situation surrounding the 2019 novel coronavirus is “rapidly evolving” explains Medical Officer of Health with Hastings-Prince Edward Public Health Piotr O’Glaza.
There are three confirmed cases of the virus in Canada, one in B.C. and two in Toronto. In Ontario, The Ministry of Health says 27 cases are currently under investigation.
O’Glaza explains the novel coronavirus is a different family or viruses from the flu, despite those suffering from it showing some of the same symptoms. If you contract it, you could have a mild fever or cough or have severe complications breaching or pneumonia.
He explains that this coronavirus is novel, meaning it’s new to the human population. O’Glaza adds that about 10 to 15 percent of common colds come from these previously circling coronaviruses. In this case, with it being new, a lot of precautions are being taken. “Any time you have a novel pathogen you just don’t have enough information to predict the impact it will have,” he says. “It could also be something that has a significant impact on an otherwise healthy population.”
The virus has killed 170 people so far in China with another 7,800 infected, with another 12,000 suspected cases. The City of Wuhan remains under quarantine as the infection continues to spread. Air Canada, American Airlines and British Airways have also suspended flights to Beijing and Shanghai.
While there are two confirmed cases in the GTA, that doesn’t mean Toronto isn’t safe to travel to, O’Glaza says. “The overall risk of this infection in Canada is still low.” He notes that anyone travelling back from China is being screened before re-entering the country. Public Health also has a plan in place for what to do if someone in the area is admitted with the symptoms of the coronavirus. “Even if someone is coming from risk area, it doesn’t mean they’re infected,” he adds. He does point out that people returning from China without symptoms are still asked to monitor themselves and check into their local hospital if they do notice anything out of the ordinary.
He says to take the same precautions you would take during cold and flu season. O’Glaza says to wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face and cough into your sleeve, not your hand or into open air. He says to stay home if you feel like, especially if you’re heading into work that day or going to a long-term care facility.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” O’Glaza says. “What I’m telling you right now might not be the case when I look at reports later today or tomorrow morning.”