On Monday, Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has confirmed a second case of the Wuhan coronavirus in the Canadian province. This second patient is the wife of the first Canadian patient identified with a coronavirus infection just recently.
The married couple left Wuhan, China (the hotspot of the new coronavirus epidemic) for Guangzhou, China on January 22nd. During the China Southern Airlines Flight CZ311, the husband, a man in his 50s, started exhibiting mild symptoms and public health officials are now scrambling to find and contact whoever was seated next to the couple.
The male patient did not report his flu-like symptoms upon arrival, but sought medical help the following day. This suggests that it would not be very surprising that there will be more cases of the Wuhan coronavirus imported into Canada, especially considering that people can spread the coronavirus before symptoms appear.
At the moment, the man is in stable condition under quarantine at the Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. His wife is also in stable condition at her home where she is currently under self-isolation.
The National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg has yet to confirm the two cases, which is why officially the married couple is referred to as “presumptive positive”. However, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement that the province’s testing facilities reacted 36 to 48 hours ahead of Winnipeg, which may explain the delay in the double-confirmation.
According to Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, the country’s health system is currently “on alert” and is closely working with international partners to limit the import of coronavirus infections. At the moment, 19 cases are under investigation in the province of Toronto.
There are currently 1,975 confirmed infections of the Wuhan coronavirus in China, which has so far killed 56 people. Outside China, the virus has infected eight in Thailand, four each in Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia, three in France and Japan, five in the United States, two in Vietnam and South Korea, and one in Nepal. Outside of China, no one has died yet of coronavirus infection.
Toronto is no stranger to coronavirus infections, though. In 2002, a different coronavirus strain called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) appeared in southern China, which quickly made its way to the Canadian province. The SARS infection ultimately infected 8,000 people and killed 774, including 44 Canadians.
The Wuhan coronavirus is known as 2019-nCoV. According to the World Health Organization, CoVs can inflict symptoms from something as mild as the common cold or something as deadly as SARS. Health workers call the new virus a novel coronavirus (nCoV) because it’s the first time this particular strain is being seen in humans.
Fortunately, nCOV strain doesn’t seem to be as aggressive or as lethal as SARS. To make matters more optimistic, it is not very easy to catch it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus is transmitted from person-to-person contagion potentially through “respiratory droplets” exchanged between people in close proximity.
Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for 2019-nCoV. However, researchers have sequenced the virus’ genome so a treatment, including a vaccine, is very possible in the future.
The CDC on Thursday raised its travel alert for the coronavirus outbreak to a level 3, recommending people avoid all nonessential travel to Wuhan, China.
According to the WHO, here are some things you can do to protect yourself against the Wuhan coronavirus:
- Regularly washing your hands and using alcohol-based sanitizers
- Covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze
- Utilizing face masks when in crowded areas
- Avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products such as milk, meat, and eggs
- Avoid close contact with people exhibiting symptoms such as fevers, coughs, sneezing, and difficulty breathing
- If you present with any of these symptoms, visit your medical provider immediately and share your recent travel history with them
- Avoiding contact with live animals in areas where there have been cases of 2019-nCoV.