- The death toll has reached 132, with 6,078 cases in China. Here’s what we know so far about the disease.
- Japan and the U.S. have evacuated citizens from China. On Wednesday, the UAE reported a case, the first in the Middle East.
Three people in Canada have now tested positive for the new coronavirus, a development that is keeping health officials across the country on high alert as the global spread of the illness broadens.
Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer, confirmed Tuesday the province has its first presumptive case of the new coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV. The patient, a man in his 40s, recently travelled to Wuhan on a business trip, the centre of the outbreak in China. He began developing symptoms more than a day after his return and, following public health messaging, contacted a primary care provider on Sunday. He tested positive for the virus late Monday night, but those results have to be confirmed by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
Canada’s two other cases, which have been confirmed by the national lab, are a husband and wife who returned to Toronto last week after travelling in the Wuhan area. The husband is recovering in isolation at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the wife, who has mild symptoms, is in self-isolation at home
During Question Period on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the risk to Canadians is low and that government officials are working to ensure the virus is contained.
“We will continue to make sure that Canadians remain safe amid these concerns about public health,” Mr. Trudeau said.
The federal government is also providing consular assistance and looking at options to repatriate Canadians who are stuck in China due to travel restrictions imposed by the government.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Tuesday that 250 Canadians in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, have registered with the Canadian government. He said 126 have requested consular assistance.
“We are looking at all options to assist them,” Mr. Champagne said. “That’s our priority.”
Global Affairs Canada this week issued a new travel advisory for China, warning all Canadians to avoid travel to Hubei.
The virus, which was first disclosed by Chinese health officials to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Dec. 31, has been rapidly spreading. The vast majority of cases are in China. The virus has killed 132 people and infected many more as of Tuesday, with 5,989 confirmed cases in China and a further 9,239 suspected cases.
Canadian health officials say they expect to see an increase in cases here and are advising anyone returning from the affected area to monitor themselves for symptoms and report any to a health provider.
In Toronto, public health officials said they have contacted the vast majority of passengers who may have been exposed to the new coronavirus on a flight from Guangzhou to Toronto last week. None of the passengers are showing any symptoms, said Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health. The city has also set up a hotline for any other passengers on the flight who have questions or concerns.
In the case of the B.C. patient, Dr. Henry said local health officials are in contact with the man’s family and that the risk of the virus spreading in the province remains low.
Because the man did not develop symptoms until after he returned home, he posed no risk to those on his flight, Dr. Henry said. He is now in self-isolation at home and is doing well, with regular monitoring from Vancouver Coastal Health.
There are many unknowns about the new virus, such as how easily it spreads and how deadly it is. The WHO said Tuesday that about 20 per cent of people who become infected with the virus appear to develop severe illness, which includes pneumonia and respiratory failure, and in a subset of cases results in death. Those numbers could change as more cases are identified and studied.
But many infectious-disease specialists have emphasized that there is no evidence to suggest 2019-nCoV is spread by asymptomatic patients. The idea that people without symptoms could pass the illness onto others spread over the weekend after a Chinese health official made the claim.
Last week, The Lancet published a case study of a Chinese family infected by the new coronavirus. The study noted that one child in the family did not develop the illness and another did get infected, but didn’t display symptoms. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious-diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital, said there was no indication in the study that the asymptomatic patient spread the illness.
Dr. Henry also refuted the claims during a news conference Tuesday, saying there is no evidence to support the idea. She said in cases that health officials have been able to study so far, “there’s no evidence of asymptomatic [transmission].”
The World Health Organization said it would study the issue to try and get a definitive answer.