The BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) says there are still no confirmed cases of the novel Wuhan coronavirus in British Columbia, and that the risk to residents in the province is “very low.”
Dr. Danuta Skowronski, epidemiology lead of influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens, said at a news conference Friday that while a number of returning travellers screened at Vancouver International Airport are being investigated, none of those cases have tested positive for the deadly virus.
“Understand there are many respiratory viruses that circulate at this time of year,” she said. “We are picking up influenzas, other humanized coronaviruses, but so far none of the novel coronavirus.
“If there is a case, we will notify you about it.”
People around the world have been on high alert as the respiratory illness that originated in China continues to make people sick. The country reported Friday that 41 people have died, while the number of cases has risen to 1,287.
On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed a second case of the virus in that country, this time in Chicago. The U.S. CDC is currently monitoring 63 other potential cases in the U.S.
Nearly 30 other cases have been reported in other countries, but none have been confirmed in Canada.
Health officials in B.C. have refused to comment on reports of several potential cases under observation, despite rumours of cases being confirmed in Richmond General Hospital and other parts of Metro Vancouver.
Skowronski shot down those rumours and advised people to seek information about confirmed cases from official sources, rather than social media.
International travellers arriving at YVR are being asked if they have travelled to Wuhan, along with additional screening questions to determine what kind of contact they had with people or animals there.
Skowronski said the virus likely originated from an “animal reservoir,” while other reports link the virus to a seafood market in Wuhan.
Officials are working on measures to contain the virus in order to eradicate it, Skowronski added, and called on British Columbians to do their part.
“We know that intense efforts now can prevent it from establishing itself as an infection for humans forever, so it is very important to us in public health to try and sustain it and stamp it out,” she said.
“We ask the help of British Columbians in this effort. If you are travelling abroad, please avoid animal contact and practice the usual precautions of regular hand washing,” she continued, adding travellers should notify border control agents or their doctor as soon as they detect any symptoms.
The BC CDC says symptoms of the virus include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia in both lungs.
In a bulletin posted Wednesday, the BC Nurses’ Union recommended that members ensure that their mask fitting is up to date and that they review their worksite exposure control plan in order to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
The World Health Organization said Thursday it’s “too early” to declare the spread of the virus a global health emergency.