Canada gears up to protect against coronavirus

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Across the country, Canadian public health agencies are preparing to deal with the deadly new virus that has infected hundreds of people in China and killed at least 17.

Authorities in several countries have confirmed cases of the illness, including one in the United States, and public health officials in Canada are bracing for cases here as well.

The head of Quebec’s public health authority said Wednesday five people in that province were under surveillance for possible exposure.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said the province recently evaluated three patients that “met some case definition:” flu-like symptoms and travel to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the outbreak.

He noted the virus comes from the same family that can lead to the common cold, and caused the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, about 17 years ago that killed at least 774 people worldwide, including 44 in Canada.

Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott says while there have been no confirmed cases in Canada and the risks posed to Ontarians remain low, “it’s not unlikely that we will receive cases.”

Ontario’s reporting requirements are now in sync with British Columbia and Alberta.

Canada’s chief public health officer said earlier this week the risk to Canadians of contracting the virus remains low, but airports in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal – all of which have direct flights from China – would begin screening passengers as one measure of defence.

Public health agencies, hospitals and paramedics have all received memos with up-to-date information about the new virus. Front-line workers are also now asking anyone who has flu-like symptoms to take a travel history.

Health-care practitioners are also being reminded to gear up with protective masks and gloves as well as regular hand-washing – practices that not only help against this coronavirus, but also work for preventing the spread of the flu and other viruses. -CINEWS

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