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N.S. chief medical officer says province is preparing for COVID-19 outbreak

AP Photo/Francois Mori

As of Wednesday there have been 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada. Seven in British Columbia and five in Ontario.

The rest of the country has so far avoided the virus which continues to spread around the world, but that could easily change.

READ MORE: New COVID-19 case confirmed in Toronto, 5th case in Ontario

“Whether we can truly contain it or not, we’re still trying to work on that,” said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia.

“But that becomes less and less of a likelihood.”

Already six people have been tested in Nova Scotia for the virus after travel and symptoms prompted concern, however all tests have come back negative.

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But the CDC in the USA is warning of the likelihood of a widespread outbreak there, and Strang says the same thing could happen here in the province.

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N.S. high school’s march break trip to avoid northern Italy due to coronavirus – Feb 25, 2020

“That’s entirely likely to happen,” said Strang.”

So far the risk of the novel corona virus in Canada is low, and officials have been focusing on containment, through quarantine and self-isolation, but an outbreak is still a possibility.

“If that happens, containment is no longer possible. It’s already, horse is out of the barn, then we have to focus on management.”

For individuals, that means emphasizing basic hygiene measures – washing hands, staying home if you’re sick, and coughing and sneezing into your sleeve, or hand and then washing your hands immediately.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus worries grow globally as WHO reports more cases outside China

“They sound basic, but they actually work,” said Strang.

Meanwhile the province continues to work with it’s provincial and federal counterparts monitoring the situation, developing coordinated and consistent surveillance and response plans.

Strang admits that an outbreak would put pressure on the health care system in Nova Scotia and across the country, but he says the province is working to prepare.

“We managed during H1N1. Did that create challenges and pressures? Yes, but we did manage so we’re certainly turning to the planning that was done, and the thinking of how we managed and changes how people access health care during H1N1,” said Strang.

READ MORE : Doctor on front lines of SARS outbreak says Canadian hospitals prepared for coronavirus

Regardless of what happens next, Strang says it’s important people don’t panic. Even if COVID-19 is labelled as a pandemic that just describes how widely it’s spread. The term pandemic doesn’t refer to how severe something is.

Already each year the world deals with an influenza pandemic.

“This COVID could be worse, but in all likelihood it’s going to be like it, if it comes here widespread, it’s going to be like we deal with a flu season,” said Strang.

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