Health officials continue to test for coronavirus; still no Alberta cases

Coronavirus risk still low in Alberta: health officials
WATCH: Canada now has one confirmed case of the new coronavirus, along with a second presumed case, both in Ontario. As Tom Vernon explains, in Alberta, health officials say the risk of infection is still very low.

Health officials are assuring Albertans there are no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the province.

“While it’s normal for us to be worried about new threats to our health, the risk to Albertans is still considered to be low,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Monday.

“There are no cases of the novel coronavirus in Alberta at this time.

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“The two presumptive cases in Ontario are travel related and they’re being isolated to prevent further transmission.”

READ MORE: 2nd ‘presumptive’ coronavirus case reported in Ontario, 1st case confirmed

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause respiratory illnesses in people, ranging from mild common colds to severe illnesses. Novel coronaviruses are new strains of the virus that have not been previously identified in humans.

What the coronavirus is, and is Canada ready for it?
What the coronavirus is, and is Canada ready for it?

“Albertans are still more likely to experience a respiratory infection caused by a common virus such as influenza — which is, in itself, a serious infection,” Hinshaw said. “However, if anyone has specific concerns about being exposed or possible symptoms related to the novel coronavirus, I encourage them to call Health Link at 811.”

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Health Link has been receiving, on average, about 20 to 30 calls a day province-wide specifically about novel coronavirus.

READ MORE: What we know about how the new coronavirus is spread

She said Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services are working behind the scenes to ensure the health system is ready to respond effectively should the need arise.

“If someone does have symptoms and they call 811 and they’ve had a concerning travel history, we can make arrangements to have a sample taken in that person’s home… so it really prevents additional spread.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: How to protect yourself

Hinshaw said “several” people have already been tested and she expects to test more in the coming days. She would not provide an exact number of tests done in Alberta.

“The cases that we’re testing are cases that could potentially have been exposed through travel. But we’re being very precautionary with respect to the cases that we’re testing, so the number of cases being tested is not an indication of risk to the public.

“The important number to know is zero. Zero probable, zero confirmed cases.”

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Hinshaw said Alberta health officials are also in contact with federal agencies, including at airports.

“Alberta does not have any direct flights from China. The screening that’s been put in place is a measure that the Public Health Agency of Canada, through their federal partners, are taking. There is screening in place at the three airports in Canada that have flights coming in from China, which are Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.”

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How airports are screening for the coronavirus
How airports are screening for the coronavirus

Still, she stressed the risk of having novel coronavirus is very low even for people who have travelled from China.

“If somebody is in close contact with someone who has returned and is feeling ill, they can always call 811 directly and get personalized advice about their particular risk.”

READ MORE: How the new coronavirus compares to SARS, MERS, Ebola and other diseases

Symptoms are similar to the flu. They can range from mild to severe and include: fever, cough, difficulty breathing, pneumonia and kidney failure.