A 32-year-old oncologist with the Juravinski Cancer Centre is in self-isolation in Burlington after a positive test for COVID-19.
A joint statement from Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and Halton Region Public Health (HRPH) says they received the positive test result on Tuesday.
“A female in her 30s returned from Hawaii on Saturday, became symptomatic on Monday, and was tested at Hamilton Health Sciences Juravinski Hospital on Monday, March 9,” Dr. Hamidah Meghani said in a press conference on Wednesday.
“She is a frontline healthcare worker and resides in Burlington.”
Meghani went on to say the physician had mild respiratory symptoms when she reported her condition while at work. She could not confirm whether the physician showed up to work with any symptoms.
The doctor – now in self-isolation at home – was working at the Juravinski Cancer Center (JCC) the afternoon of March 9, and saw 14 cancer patients and came in contact with two physicians, five health care workers and a senior oncology resident.
Meghani said the three health agencies are working closely to identify all known contacts the doctor may have been potentially exposed to the virus and to assess if there is a potential health risk.
“Understandably, this may be concerning to Halton residents. I want to reassure everyone that the risk in our community remains low at this time,” said Meghani.
Dr. Barry Lumb, Physician-in-Chief and Acting Chief Medical Executive with Hamilton Health Sciences says the oncologist became symptomatic on Monday afternoon and was “responsible in her response.”
“She called an infectious disease specialist. She arranged to be tested and then immediately left the building and self-isolated at home,” said Lumb.
Meghani said the doctor reported she was not symptomatic on her return flight to Canada.
Subsequent to receiving the positive report, Lumb says the service has been in touch with all of the other individuals who are working in that clinic, as well as all of the patients that the doctor saw that day.
“We feel that we have our situation in the JCC and the cancer center well under control. We are open for business and we are continuing to take care of patients,” said Lumb.
However, he also said public health is still trying to contact another oncologist who was working in the clinic on Monday.
“One physician is actually travelling and we’re actively trying to reach her as quickly as we can.”
Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, says “three levels of contact” have been made with those who came in contact with the Juravinski physician.
“We have identified those who worked most closely with her and her patients, those are the individuals who we think would be a higher risk. And so we have asked them to self-isolate and remain at home.”
Richardson says the second level of contacts – who are not as high risk – are being treated “similarly out of an abundance of precaution” and have been asked to self-isolate and stay at home.
The third group of patients, who clinicians saw on Monday afternoon, are being asked to self-monitor and reach out to a public health agency should they experience any symptoms.
Richardson says the extra precautions are due to the fact the patients were attending the cancer centre and may have a higher risk of contracting the virus.
As of Wednesday, federal public health officials confirmed 93 cases of COVID-19 in Canada. More than 113,000 people worldwide have tested positive for the disease.
According to the Province of Ontario, the woman is number forty-one on the list of new confirmed cases.
Her spouse – who was with her on the trip and is a physician at St. Joeseph’s hospital – has been tested and is self-monitoring their condition, according to Hamilton public health.