The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is monitoring a recent outbreak of a respiratory illness linked to coronavirus and has asked health-care workers to be vigilant in taking travel history for anyone reporting respiratory symptoms.
According to a joint statement released by Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, the risk to residents in the province is considered low.
“To date, there have been no cases of illness caused by the coronavirus in British Columbia or elsewhere in Canada,” reads the statement.
This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a man in Washington State, who returned from an overseas trip to Wuhan in central China — where the outbreaks began — was diagnosed with a new type of viral pneumonia.
Last month doctors began noticing similar symptoms — fever, cough, difficulty breathing — in people who spent time at a food market in Wuhan. Since then more than 275 cases of the newly identified coronavirus have been confirmed in China.
The count includes six deaths — all in China, most of them age 60 or older, including at least some who had a previous medical condition.
Officials have said it probably spread from animals to people, but this week Chinese officials said they’ve concluded it also can spread from person to person.
Health authorities this month identified the germ behind the outbreak as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold; others found in bats, camels and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has implemented screening for early detection of the infection for individuals arriving in airports. According to the statement, quarantine officers are available at the Vancouver International Airport, along with infection control practitioners, located at the Richmond Hospital, who are ready to respond to any patient who may require further investigation.
The BCCDC has developed a diagnostic test for coronavirus and is coordinating staff and supplies to be prepared to “quickly and accurately detect potential cases.”
“The provincial health officer has also shared awareness notifications to infection control practitioners, emergency department staff and primary care providers reminding them to screen for coronavirus symptoms and exposure. Providers who suspect an instance of coronavirus are asked to report it to their local medical health officers immediately,” reads the statement.
Anyone who is concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus should contact their primary care provider, local public health officer or call 811.
Anyone travelling to or from China is encouraged to visit the federal source of destination-specific travel information, which provides important advice to help travellers make informed decisions and travel safely. The website is travel.gc.ca.
— With files from The Associated Press