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Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry, seen here on Feb. 24, 2020, said the latest patient is a man in his 40s who is a close contact of B.C.’s sixth case, a woman in her 30s who recently returned from Iran.CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

British Columbia has identified its seventh case of COVID-19.

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry on Monday said the latest patient is a man in his 40s who is a close contact of B.C.’s sixth case, a woman in her 30s who recently returned from Iran.

“He had onset of symptoms prior to Case Six’s diagnosis, so we have been working very diligently over the weekend with Fraser Health [Authority] to identify anybody that he came in contact with prior to going into isolation last week,” Dr. Henry said.

The health authority has since connected with “a number” of the man’s close contacts, who are now also self-isolating as a precaution.

Last Friday, Dr. Henry noted that the woman’s diagnosis was a sentinel case – that is, an indicator that something broader may be happening in Iran. At the time, Iran had just started reporting on the coronavirus, with five cases and two deaths. As of Monday, it had at least 43 cases and eight deaths.

“That certainly has been borne out and is very concerning,” Dr. Henry said Monday. “I think it’s really important to recognize that the global situation is evolving very rapidly.”

B.C.’s first case of COVID-19, announced on Jan. 28, has since been resolved. The remaining four patients are all doing well and will be tested this week to determine if they are recovered, Dr. Henry said. A person is deemed fully recovered with the resolution of symptoms and two negative tests taken 24 hours apart.

The BC Centre for Disease Control was recently authorized for COVID-19 testing by Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory, meaning positive tests at the B.C. lab no longer need to be sent to Winnipeg for official confirmation.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the local test, and the low threshold for testing, has allowed health officials to test 991 people in British Columbia to date. In comparison, neighbouring Washington State has tested just 35.

Meanwhile, Ontario identified its fourth presumptive positive case on Sunday after a woman arrived in Canada from China and presented at North York General Hospital with a mild and intermittent cough. She had been advised to go to the hospital by Telehealth Ontario, a medical consultation service done over the phone.

Toronto Public Health said the woman followed all protocols, wore a mask throughout her travels and had very limited exposure to others since landing.

“Given the individual’s clinical assessment and history, there is a low risk that she was infectious,” the Toronto health unit said in a statement.

Dr. Henry said the risk of the virus spreading within British Columbia remains low.

The most important measures to prevent respiratory illness, including COVID-19, are regular hand-washing, avoiding touching the face, coughing or sneezing into the elbow rather than hands, and staying away from others if sick.

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