Ontario now has a sixth confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, and while it is the first instance in the province of human-to-human transmission, health officials say the risk is still low.
Officials said Thursday the husband of a woman who had travelled to Iran and recently tested positive for the new coronavirus in Toronto is now infected. The husband had not travelled with her to Iran.
The woman, who is in her 60s, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Feb. 24. She had presented herself at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s emergency department with a travel history to Iran.
Her husband, also in his 60s, now has a presumptive case of the virus and is currently in self-isolation, health officials said in a statement.
“We are working alongside Toronto Public Health, who is now and will continue to be in regular contact with this individual during their self-isolation period,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.
The man is Toronto’s fifth case of the coronavirus and the sixth case in the province.
Five people in Ontario had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19, including a married couple in Toronto, a Western University student in London, Ont., another Toronto woman who had all recently returned from travelling in China, and a woman in her 60s who had recently travelled to Iran.
While China has been the epicentre of the outbreak of the virus known as COVID-19, Iran is now experiencing one of the worst outbreaks outside of China, with 254 people infected and 26 dead.
Globally, the coronavirus has infected about 81,000 people since it emerged in China.
Dr. Williams said health authorities remain vigilant, but there is no cause for fear in the general public. The data from China shows that most of the spread has been to close contacts, most infected people have fairly mild and short-lived symptoms particularly younger people – and the deaths have been in older people with underlying health conditions, he said.
“Before there’s widespread panic and that kind of stuff, look at the evidence,” Williams said, noting the mortality rate is less than that of the flu.
“I think you have to – instead of (acting) on speculation and fear – go back to the data, look at the information, ask your authorities on what the risk is. It’s still low. But does that mean we’re going to sit back and not do more surveillance? We’re going to do more surveillance.”
— With files from The Canadian Press.