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‘We’re ready, we’re prepared:’ Toronto, Ontario public health officials on coronavirus

Canadian health officials “ready to respond” to new virus
WATCH: While new coronavirus cases are popping up around the world, the infection hasn't reached Canada yet. And if it does arrive, Canadian health officials say there's no reason to panic. Eric Sorensen explains why.

Public health officials for Toronto and Ontario say that they are prepared and ready for any possible cases of the coronavirus, mostly in part due to resources put into place following the 2003 SARS outbreak.

“We’re ready, we’re prepared,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer, told reporters at a press conference at Toronto City Hall on Friday morning.

“Our preparedness is set in place. Through SARS, and through all the work later, we have set in place standard policies and procedures,” Williams added, citing resources that were put into hospitals and the implementation of Public Health Ontario (PHO) following the SARS outbreak.

Coronavirus outbreak: Doctor explains how science has advanced since SARS scare in 2003
Coronavirus outbreak: Doctor explains how science has advanced since SARS scare in 2003

READ MORE: Mass quarantines won’t happen in Canada if coronavirus is discovered: authorities

“Everyone knows the policy and procedures. Staff in different settings and leadership are making sure there are places in order to respond to people under investigation, which is mostly what we’re doing now.”

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A coronavirus, part of a family of germs that can cause respiratory illness in humans, is so named because the viruses look like crowns under a microscope. Sometimes, the effects of a coronavirus infection are very mild, but in some people, they can be lethal. The virus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 was also a coronavirus.

Toronto, Ontario officials prepare for potential cases of coronavirus
Toronto, Ontario officials prepare for potential cases of coronavirus

Twenty-six people have died so far from the recent coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China.

“People are going to be assessed, will continue to be assessed. That’s part of our surveillance. And we are going to get more and more of that as we rule out any possible cases in Canada.”

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“We still haven’t seen a case. My guess is we will. It’s a matter of where an when. But that’s part of a robust surveillance system and a team, and group, that’s ready to respond to that,” Williams said.

READ MORE: Australia, France confirm first cases of coronavirus as U.S. announces 2nd

However, public health officials also said there is no need to worry about mass quarantines if the virus is discovered here.

Dr. Peter Donnelly with Public Health Ontario said it’s likely someone in Canada will contract the potentially lethal virus. However, Donnelly said it will still be business as usual if that happens.

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According to the city, “currently, there are no laboratory-confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Toronto, and the overall health risk to residents remains low.”

Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, is urging people to seek credible information sources on the outbreak.

“We will let you know if the situation changes,” De Villa said.

“In the meantime, I ask members of the public to rely on evidence from informed, credible sources of information when you’re looking for updates,” De Villa added saying that updates are posted on Toronto Public Health’s website regularly.

“At Toronto Public Health, we are updating our website regularly with new information as quickly as it becomes available. The provincial Ministry of Health, Public Health Ontario and the Public Health Agency of Canada are also great sources of information,” De Villa added.

Coronavirus outbreak: No confirmed cases in Toronto, public health officer says
Coronavirus outbreak: No confirmed cases in Toronto, public health officer says

— With files from the Canadian Press.

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