British Columbia has confirmed eight new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total identified in the province to 21.
For the first time in Canada, one case is believed to have been contracted through community contact.
“This is a community case, and we are doing a detailed investigation right now to try and determine where her source of infection was,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“She has not recently travelled and has no known contact with any of our known cases of COVID-19.”
Henry said the case is a woman in her 50s who is a resident of the Fraser Health Region.
She added that the case had been detected through extra testing being conducted through B.C.’s influenza surveillance program.
“So we picked up this person by that testing protocol, so now we need to find out OK, she hasn’t travelled, there’s no one in her immediate family who travelled, so how did she pick this up,” said Henry.
“There’s likely at least one other person out there who has had this disease, or has this disease and we need to find them and their contacts so we can stop any further transmission.”
Henry said the woman is in isolation, and health officials were now doing the “detective work” to trace whether she had been to any major public events, had come in contact with someone ill at work, or someone with a previously unknown travel history.
Henry said four of the new cases are close contacts of a previously known case involving someone who travelled to Iran. All four are in the Fraser Health Region.
Two of the new cases are also people who have recently returned from Iran, bringing the total number of cases linked to the country in B.C. to 13. Both live in the Vancouver Coastal Health Region.
One case is a woman in her 50s from Seattle who was visiting family in the Fraser Health Region.
“We do know there has been some contacts in health care settings and others in Washington state and we are working with our colleagues in Washington state to investigate this and we will find out more,” said Henry.
Washington state has reported 70 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths, almost all in the Seattle area.
Four people have completely recovered from the virus in B.C., while one patient, a woman in her 80s, remains in critical condition in the ICU at Vancouver General Hospital.
Henry stressed the public should remain calm and focus on trying to prevent the spread of the virus through measures such as washing hands, avoiding touching their face and covering their mouth and nose when they sneeze and cough.
She added that anyone who is showing symptoms should phone 811 or their health care provider before coming in to be treated.
People travelling from China or Iran are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days, and Henry said anyone who has travelled elsewhere and is feeling ill should also stay home.
“Travel is a risk right now. So anybody who has travelled right now that has even a mild symptom, we’re asking them to stay home,” said Henry.
“If it develops into a cough or a fever, shortness of breath, things that are more related with COVID-19 … those are the people we want to ensure get tested, so call ahead.”
Henry said people considering travel should closely assess their tolerance for risk or being caught up in a quarantine, noting that the virus has been detected in at least 80 countries.
Correction: A previous version of this story cited health officials statement that the case of community transmission was in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. Officials later corrected that to say they are, in fact, in the Fraser Health Region.
-With files from the Associated PressView link »