B.C.’s top doctor says the province has identified a 13th case of COVID-19, a woman in her 80s who is in hospital in critical condition.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the woman had recently travelled to both India and Hong Kong, and was now in isolation in the ICU at Vancouver General Hospital.
“Unfortunately she’s had quite a severe illness,” said Henry.
“The hospital, of course, has been preparing for this and has taken all precautions to ensure that everybody in the hospital, the health care workers, the visitors and the other patients are safe and being protected.”
Henry said the patient was a resident of the Vancouver Coastal Health region, and had been on a group trip in Asia.
She said the timing of the onset of symptoms suggests the virus was likely contracted in Hong Kong, though health officials are also looking at India.
Health officials are also following up with other Canadians on the trip, none of whom reside in B.C., Henry added.
“She came back in the middle of last week and she was not ill during her travel, became ill a couple days after returning home,” said Henry.
The update comes after health officials staged two press conferences on Tuesday announcing four new confirmed cases of the virus, all of them involving travellers from Iran or their close contacts.
Four of the 13 people diagnosed with COVID-19 so far have fully recovered.
All of B.C.’s known cases prior to Wednesday involved people who had travelled to China or Iran, or their close contacts.
B.C. health officials have said that their focus remains on containing the virus, but have acknowledged that they are preparing for a full-blown pandemic, given the rapid spread of COVID-19 to countries around the world.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said health authorities around the province have been coordinating their emergency pandemic planning.
“In every health authority, in fact, there is an emergency operations centre in operation now to address COIVD-19,” he said.
Henry again asked the public to stay away from long-term care homes if they are feeling ill, noting that people living in them often have weakened immune systems.
“Anyone who’s sick please stay home from work, stay away from school and particular, stay away from long-term care and assisted living,” she said.
Dix recommended that anyone who is afraid they have COVID-19 should call 811 or call ahead to a clinic before going in so that health officials can take precautions.
Henry said the province was also relying on the public to take the basic precautions to avoid transmission: frequent hand washing, covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze, not touching their eyes or their face and staying home from events if they feel ill.
Officials say B.C. is also closely monitoring the situation in Washington state, where 10 people have died and at least 39 cases have been reported clustered around the Seattle area.
Washington state researchers say the virus may have been circulating undetected for weeks in the community.
— With files from the Associated Press