‘Low risk’ for novel coronavirus in community, public health officials say

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo, or crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under an electron microscope. Photo via the US CDC.

Although there are two cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus in Canada – one confirmed and one presumptive – Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health is advising local residents that the risk of the virus in our community is still low.

The new (or ‘novel’) virus was identified by Chinese health authorities on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019 after a series of reported cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China. The Wuhan novel coronavirus, referred to as 2019-nCoV, has sparked fear in many people, leading to false information being spread on the internet, including the assertion that there is an active case of the virus in Kingston. This is simply not true, explained Dr. Hugh Guan, a public health medical resident with KFL&A Public Health.

“There are no confirmed cases in Kingston, nor are there any persons under investigation in Kingston. The only cases within all of Canada are those two cases in Toronto, and both of them are within the same family,” Guan said, noting that management of the two cases in Ontario was very prompt, and that Toronto Public Health is currently following up with known contacts of those cases.

“In terms of our own community, the risk is still low for this Novel Coronavirus. We are working with our local healthcare partners, including Queen’s Student Health, Queen’s University, as well as Kingston Health Sciences Centre, in terms of managing the care pathways for any returning travellers that are sick,” he explained.

And, while 19 cases are being investigated throughout Ontario, none of those cases are in the Kingston area, either.

Guan also pointed out that there are policies and procedures in place to deal with any issues that may arise, and that the local and provincial healthcare systems are much better prepared to handle the threat of the virus having dealt with the SARS outbreak in 2003. SARS, which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome, is also a strain of coronavirus.

At the same time, Queen’s University has denied an online allegation that a student at the university had contracted the virus and returned to Canada from China without being screened.

“This is fake. False statements like this are meant to spark fear and divide our community. #WeAreAllGAELS #FAKE,” Queen’s ARC tweeted in response to the allegation, which was posted on Twitter, but has since been removed.

The university released an updated message regarding 2019-nCoV on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, which is available here.

“Health officials currently maintain that the risk of contracting the virus remains low. At Queen’s, we are monitoring the situation carefully and will inform the community if any additional precautions are necessary,” the statement reads.

The statement also refers to the recommendations from Global Affairs Canada and the Centre for Disease Control, which both recommend travel to Wuhan and the Hubei Province of China should be avoided, and points faculty and staff to the Government of Canada’s travel advisory website here.

Dr. Guan pointed out a few basic steps to help individuals protect themselves from the virus, and noted that influenza is the most likely think to make people sick in our community.

“In terms of what people can do, one of the things that is still circulating a lot in the community, and we know does make people sick and is fatal is influenza, so we would still recommend to get your influenza vaccine for those who haven’t got it,” he said.

“And general precautions, such as washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and covering your nose or mouth when you cough or sneeze.”

Lastly, Guan said residents should refer to the latest information from trusted sources for further tips, links to which are listed below, and, of course, the best rule when it comes to stopping the spread of any illness:

“If people are ill, just stay at home, because that’s another method whereby we can contain spread,” he said.

For more information on 2019-nCoV from the Ontario Ministry of Health, click here. For more information on the novel coronavirus from KFL&A Public Health, click here.

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  • how many people were on that same plane returning to Canada Have heath authorities put a ban on flights from China to Canada

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