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Quebec’s public health agency monitoring 5 possible cases of China coronavirus

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Quebec’s Public Health Agency says it isn’t taking any chances when it comes to coronavirus, which has already killed over a dozen people in China.

Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, said Wednesday that the province is treating the situation as though it were a health emergency.

“Even if the World Health Organization hasn’t declared it as an international health emergency, we are acting as though it is,” Arruda told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

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Some measures include the screening of international travellers arriving at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport to determine if they have visited the city of Wuhan in China, where the outbreak was first reported.

He said public health has been monitoring the situation closely and is taking extra precautions to avoid a situation in which the virus propagates and transmission is sustained within the community.

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Arruda explained the risk of that happening is considered low, but nonetheless, it’s important to remain vigilant.

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“We will see how much the disease is evolving and see what things could be happening with new mutations if the virus adapts to humans,” he said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 3 Canadian airports ramp up screening process for travellers

On Wednesday, six patients in the province were being evaluated for possible exposure to the virus. Arruda confirmed one of the six has been released after it was determined it was not a case of the illness.

Arruda was reassuring, saying it was normal to see a spike in medical evaluations as the province is hoping to detect any possible infections with the virus.

He said the province is well-prepared to deal with the situation, having learned its lessons from previous outbreaks like SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, in 2003.

“Our network of health is ready to detect and to treat,” Arruda said, explaining they already have a test to diagnose the disease, thus allowing for better detection.

Arruda noted that by the time SARS was declared an emergency, it had already spread. He credits Chinese authorities for not waiting before announcing the Wuhan outbreak.

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The World Health Organization met earlier Wednesday in an emergency committee meeting to discuss the outbreak but yet to declare a public health emergency.

The agency is expected to meet again on Thursday.

— With files from Global’s Maham Abedi and Kalina Laframboise