British Columbia has identified its fifth presumptive positive case of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 as a woman in her 30s who developed symptoms after a trip to Shanghai, China.
Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry said the woman had not travelled to Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak, or anywhere else with virus-related travel restrictions. She flew from Shanghai to Vancouver then travelled by private vehicle to the B.C. Interior, where she resides.
“She, as many others have been doing, was following the advice that she received and was self-isolating and monitoring herself,” Dr. Henry said Friday. “She called ahead when her symptoms developed and she felt she needed to have medical attention. The medical health officer in the Interior was contacted, testing was done on [Feb. 11] and the results came back at the [BC Centre for Disease Control] lab yesterday afternoon.”
Cases are deemed presumptive positive, or presumptive confirmed, when local tests turn up positive for the virus. However, all samples must then be sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg for official confirmation.
It is believed that the B.C. woman’s symptoms began around the time of her arrival back in Vancouver, Dr. Henry said. Interior Health is now investigating her travel patterns and whether other passengers on her flight need to be contacted.
If so, that would entail contacting passengers within three rows of the woman, asking them to monitor for symptoms and informing them of what to do should symptoms arise, Dr. Henry said, adding that the woman was wearing a face mask for the duration of the flight.
“The risk is still very, very low,” she said.
Health officials are not releasing flight details so as not to unnecessarily alarm the public.
This latest case is Canada’s eighth. The others are: A man in his 40s from B.C, who had developed symptoms after a business trip to Hubei; a woman in her 50s, also from B.C., and her two visitors from Hubei; a woman in her 20s in London, Ont.; and a husband and wife in Toronto.
Dr. Henry said B.C.’s first case – the man in his 40s, whose diagnosis was announced Jan. 28 – has since had a single negative test for the virus. The criteria for releasing a person from self-isolation, and considering the person recovered, is two negative tests taken 24-hours apart.
As of Friday, B.C. has tested 500 people, and Ontario 364, for COVID-19. Health officials say the high number is because they have set a low bar for testing out of an abundance of caution.
Anyone who has recently visited Hubei, or been in close contact with someone who has recently visited Hubei, is asked to call public-health officials and self-isolate for 14 days.
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.
To date, there have been slightly more than 49,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, and 1,383 deaths.
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