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Coronavirus: How to protect yourself

Do Canadians need to worry about coronavirus?
WATCH: Do Canadians need to worry about the new coronavirus?

There are currently two presumptive cases of the new coronavirus in Ontario, something health officials say was “not unexpected.”

Over the weekend, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said additional cases could occur in the near future. However, Tam said despite the presumptive cases, the risk to Canadians remains low.

So how can you protect yourself from contracting the virus, and what should you do if you show symptoms? Experts say it starts with good health hygiene.

How to protect yourself from the new coronavirus

Like with other viruses, it’s important to practise good handwashing to protect yourself from the new coronavirus.

The virus responsible for the recent outbreak, a new strain of coronavirus, has created alarm, though, because much about it is still unknown, including how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people.

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READ MORE: Health officials urge Canadians to get coronavirus information from credible sources

Dr. Susy Hota, an associate professor with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, said that to avoid transmitting the virus, people should wash their hands often — especially after using public transit or grocery shopping.

“Lots of people touch things, and you don’t know who is sick and who might have contaminated a surface,” Hota said.

“We also don’t know how long this virus can survive on surfaces, and that can vary depending on what type of surface it is.”

It is also a good idea to avoid touching your face, Hota said. She also recommends people cough or sneeze into their sleeves and stay home if they are sick.

Health officials have urged Canadians to practise good hygiene in order to limit the transmissions of all viruses — including the flu.

“Right now, there’s no advice for any other broader measures, like everyone should wear a mask or things like that,” Hota said. “There’s no need for it, and there’s no evidence if that even works.”

What to do if you suspect you have the new coronavirus?

A key factor in preventing the new coronavirus from spreading is identifying and treating it right away.

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Symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, runny nose, cough and difficulty breathing. Symptoms of the new coronavirus are also common symptoms of influenza.

Canadian coronavirus patient had symptoms on plane
Canadian coronavirus patient had symptoms on plane

In extremely serious cases — especially in those with weakened immune systems — the virus can cause pneumonia, bronchitis, kidney failure and death.

“The incubation period — which is the time from when people get exposed and infected with a virus to when they show symptoms — can vary from person to person,” Hota said.

“There’s a range from one day to 14 days before people will develop symptoms after they get infected.”

If you suspect you have the virus, Hota says it’s best to alert health-care providers immediately. Before going to a hospital, call ahead and let them know your symptoms and concern around the new coronavirus.

If calling for am ambulance, let the emergency responders know, too. This will help health experts prepare for your arrival and treatment.

READ MORE: What are coronavirus symptoms? In mild cases, just like the common cold

“We have a very strong system in place for screening people when they enter into health-care facilities,” Hota said.

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“We ask questions routinely about if people have fevers that are new or respiratory symptoms like cough, shortness of breath and other infectious symptoms. And, of course, their travel history.”

Hota says if you’ve recently travelled to an outbreak centre, like the Chinese city of Wuhan, your symptoms should be taken seriously.

Details emerge about Toronto patient believed to have coronavirus
Details emerge about Toronto patient believed to have coronavirus

A diagnostic test is available to detect the bug quickly — a sharp contrast to the 2002-03 SARS outbreak when there was no similar test readily available.

However, there is no vaccine to prevent an infection from the virus. Because of this, people who become infected are quarantined in hospitals or homes to prevent it from spreading.

— With files from Global News’ Hannah Jackson and Rachael D’Amore

Laura.Hensley@globalnews.ca