Canada’s readiness to deal possible cases of the Wuhan coronavirus is significantly better than it was when dealing with SARS in 2003, says one public health expert.
In an interview prior to officials announcing Canada’s first “presumptive” case of the virus, Dr. Peter Donnelly, president and CEO of Public Health Ontario, said he thought it was likely that the virus would appear in Canada.
“I say that because we have lots of connections with China, we have major international airports, so it’s entirely possible we will get an imported case of this new coronavirus,” Donnelly told The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson.
“The thing to remember is that we have much better preparedness this time around.”
On Saturday afternoon, health officials in Ontario said that a case of the virus was identified through lab testing in Toronto. A secondary test at Canada’s National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg is taking place to confirm the diagnosis.
The virus has infected at least 1,975 people and killed roughly 56 since it was first identified on Dec. 31.
Originating in a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, it has since spread to Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and the United States.
The Canadian patient, a man in his 50s, had recently flown from the region to Canada.
The coronavirus is a previously unknown strain in the same family of viruses also identified in the SARS outbreak of 2003.
During that outbreak, 44 Canadians died and roughly 800 were sickened in what the World Health Organization (WHO) declared to be a global health emergency. Roughly 800 people around the world died while just over 8,000 were infected.
Both cause fever and respiratory difficulties, including pneumonia.
But comparisons between the outbreak of SARS and the current Wuhan coronavirus have also stressed that while there are some similarities in the viruses themselves, the global conditions in which they are spreading are vastly different.
Donnelly noted that his own agency, as an example, did not exist during the SARS outbreak and that the state of public health organization and awareness have improved greatly since 2003.
“I think we are as well prepared as we can be for this and similar threats.”