First presumptive case of coronavirus confirmed in Toronto, but authorities say risk in BC remains low

While Ontario health authorities have confirmed the first presumptive case of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to hit Canada, BC health authorities issued a statement reaffirming that the risk of the virus to BC residents is “still considered low.”

A joint statement between Minister of Health Adrian Dix and BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirms the BC health authorities are monitoring the virus outbreak and taking precautionary measures, should a case be confirmed in BC.

“We are closely watching the situation in Canada and globally, and are meeting regularly with our counterparts across the country to make sure we are prepared if cases arise in BC,” reads the statement.

On January 23, Ontario health officials confirmed the first presumptive case of coronavirus in Toronto. The patient, a man in his 50s, travelled to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak was first detected.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, confirmed that the man was quarantined in Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, and was in stable condition.

The virus was first detected in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province.

According to reports from Chinese officials, the virus has caused at least 41 deaths and over 1,000 cases of infection as of January 24. Wuhan and several other cities have recently been placed on lockdown in attempts to counter the spread of the virus.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a serious of viruses that can cause illnesses from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The current novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain, which had not previously been identified in humans before the outbreak.

Coronavirus is also zoonotic, meaning it can spread between humans and animals.

Symptoms can range from coughing, fever and shortness of breath to pneumonia and severe acute respiratory syndrome in more serious cases.

UBC has issued a message from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCDC) on their website for faculty and staff, which reiterates that the risk to BC is low. The university also said UBC service provider International SOS (iSOS) can assist students, staff and faculty who are worried about travelling.

As cases of the virus reach Ontario, University of Toronto’s student paper The Varsity reported that a student spending winter break in Wuhan has been quarantined and another student who returned to Toronto from Wuhan has put herself in “self-quarantine” in her room.

No such cases have been reported at UBC.