Officials reach most people in contact with Toronto couple with coronavirus
By The Canadian Press
Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2020
TORONTO -- Health authorities have communicated with most of the people who may have been in close contact with a Toronto couple who contracted the new strain of coronavirus, Toronto’s top public health official said Tuesday.
Toronto medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa said the ability to reach the relevant people was a sign the health-protection system was working.
“We have reached out and heard back from the vast majority of these individuals,” de Villa said in a statement. “This is very positive news given the short timeline.”
The man and his wife -- both in their mid-50s -- are believed to be the first two Canadian patients diagnosed with the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 100 people in China and sickened thousands of others. The couple had recently travelled to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the international outbreak.
Samples from likely coronavirus cases must be tested at both the provincial and national levels before a diagnosis can be officially confirmed. While official confirmation has come for the Toronto man, the Ontario Ministry of Health said Tuesday that the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg was still testing samples from his wife.
De Villa said the two cases in Toronto were not surprising given the “mobile population” that moves between Canada and China.
Health staff have been working to reach out to close contacts of those with the illness to warn them of their possible exposure and to make them aware of symptoms and treatment options. It also affords the opportunity for them to ask questions, de Villa said.
“This is part of our routine work in public health to protect the health of our residents.”
Symptoms of the illness, according to Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, may take about two weeks to manifest and are similar to those of the flu. They include coughing, a fever and a general feeling of malaise. Some people may have difficulty breathing.
Chinese authorities have locked down cities with millions of people in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, but Canadian authorities have stressed repeatedly that the overall community risk is low.
Meanwhile, health officials in British Columbia said Tuesday a man in his 40s is presumed to have coronavirus and is doing well as he recovers at home.
Medical professionals say the best way to prevent spreading infection is to avoid exposure to the virus, and to take simple measures such as frequent hand-washing, covering coughs or sneezes, and staying home if ill.
They have also stressed the need to consult reliable, credible sources of information on the virus such as health agency websites.
De Villa also said authorities have set up a hotline for people who travelled on China Southern Airlines flight CZ311, arriving in Toronto on Jan. 22 from Guangzhou. People on this flight can call Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with any questions.
Toronto residents can also contact the information line if they have questions.
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
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