Alberta Health said Thursday afternoon that the province had its first presumptive case of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus.
“All of the testing done has not yet been confirmed at the national lab,” Alberta’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Health officials said the Albertan presumed to now have the virus is a woman in her 50s whom they believe contracted COVID-19 while aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship out of California.
She returned home to the Calgary Zone on Feb. 21 and has been self-isolating since Feb. 28. She is expected to make a full recovery, Hinshaw said.
“Public health measures are already being put in place to contain the virus and protect Albertans,” a news release said.
Hinshaw explained that officials are reaching out to anyone who may have been in contact with the woman. Anyone in close contact who is showing symptoms will be tested.
“The World Health Organization mission report from China indicated that asymptomatic transmission, as a major driver of the epidemic, is extremely small and that testing people when they don’t have symptoms, in exceptional circumstances can be considered, but even if someone were to test negative if they don’t have symptoms, we would still ask them to stay home.
“So we’re reserving our capacity for testing for those who are feeling ill and asking people who are feeling well from this cruise to stay home until 14 days have passed.”
Hinshaw said anyone who was on the Grand Princess cruise ship is asked to stay home for two weeks even if they’re feeling well. If they’re feeling sick, they should contact Health Link, she said.
“Despite this case, the risk of catching the virus is still low in our province,” she said. “We have been preparing for this since the virus first emerged in January.”
As of Thursday afternoon, 34 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Canada.
On Wednesday, Alberta Health Services announced it had expanded its testing protocols to also include people who have recently travelled to Hong Kong, Singapore, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Italy. Health officials are encouraging travellers to stay up to date with the latest information regarding the spread of COVID-19, as it’s not known where the virus will spread next.
“We ask any travellers returning from these areas, in addition to mainland China, to monitor their symptoms for 14 days after returning,” Hinshaw said.
“Should these individuals experience symptoms like fever or cough or have any concerns about their health, I encourage them to stay home and call Health Link at 811 to see if there is a need for testing or follow-up.”
As of Friday morning, Alberta Health said 375 people had been tested for COVID-19, all but one coming back with a negative result. The province will hold a media availability at 4 p.m. Friday to update the province’s first presumptive case of the novel coronavirus.