Saskatchewan health officials warn against coronavirus hoaxes

Click to play video 'Saskatchewan health officials warn against coronavirus hoaxes' Saskatchewan health officials warn against coronavirus hoaxes
WATCH: Two recently circulated messages contained misleading information about coronavirus in Saskatchewan – Jan 29, 2020

When it comes to the new coronavirus, Saskatchewan health officials are cautioning against believing everything you read on social media.

In a Saskatoon Facebook group, a widely circulated, captioned Snapchat picture states two people at St. Paul’s Hospital have confirmed cases of coronavirus that have gone undisclosed to the public.

As it turns out, the picture is not legitimate.

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“We are not aware of any cases at St. Paul’s,” said Dr. Joseph Blondeau, the head of clinical microbiology at Royal University Hospital and the University of Saskatchewan.

The post has since been deleted, but could be referring to one of the several St. Paul’s Hospitals across the world, including a facility in Vancouver or another in the Philippines.

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When information is inaccurate, Blondeau said it can cause anxiety and panic in the public, affecting things like personal travel and business.

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“I think it needs to be accurate, but at the same time, I think there’s a real need for the public to understand what’s actually going on and to have accurate information,” Blondeau said.

As of early Wednesday, more than 6,000 cases of coronavirus were confirmed globally. Outside of China, there were 68 cases confirmed in 15 countries.

Misinformation has also hit the University of Regina.

READ MORE: University of Regina cancels travel to China over coronavirus risk

A message exchanged via a Chinese message platform called WeChat states a student in the U of R residences hosted their parents from Wuhan — considered the virus’ city of origin.

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A U of R spokesperson confirmed to Global News “these rumours are incorrect.”

“The U of R is continuing to monitor the situation in consultation with the appropriate health authorities and will provide the campus with any updates as required,” the statement reads.

As a precaution, the university has called off its organized and funded travel to China for the next three months.

Blondeau also stated he wouldn’t be surprised if Saskatchewan has a case of coronavirus at some point.

READ MORE: Coronavirus cases in China jump to nearly 6,000, surpassing SARS outbreak

“We have people who travel to China and then come back,” he said. “Plus, we have individuals who may have come in contact with people who may have travelled to China and may have contracted the virus through those particular contexts.”

If news of coronavirus emerges from a Saskatchewan facility, the province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, urged people to turn to credible sources.

“If there’s a first case in Saskatchewan, that will be formally announced just like in other provinces,” Shahab said.

The World Health Organization has planned an emergency committee meeting on Thursday to determine whether the current coronavirus outbreak should be deemed a public health emergency internationally.

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With files from Global’s Leslie Young.