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St. Marys man with COVID-19 in critical condition, close household contact also diagnosed

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, green, cultured in the lab. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML

Days after Huron Perth Public Health reported its first case of COVID-19 in the region, officials have confirmed the patient’s condition is worsening and a close family contact has also been confirmed to have the novel coronavirus.

The agency reported its first case of COVID-19 on Saturday involving a 64-year-old St. Marys man who was said to be in serious condition.

On Wednesday, his condition was updated to critical and health officials confirmed a 57-year-old woman who is a “close household contact” of his has also tested positive for COVID-19. She has not exhibited any symptoms and she is said to be self-isolating at home.

READ MORE: Archived: Live updates on coronavirus in Canada

In its initial statement on Saturday, the health unit had said the man had recently travelled to Mexico and returned home on March 2. He began self-isolating at home after feeling sick “with unrelated illness” on March 7 before going to St. Marys Memorial Hospital on the evening of March 12 with symptoms “unrelated to COVID-19.”

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Officials said that his condition changed in the emergency department and staff decided to take precautions and test for COVID-19 before transferring him to Stratford General Hospital.

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Public health staff say they will conduct “thorough contact tracing” related to the confirmed cases.

“Please be assured that public health is following all necessary contact tracing to ensure that anyone who may have been exposed or at risk is contacted and receiving instructions from us,” said Huron Perth medical officer of health Dr. Miriam Klassen.

“If there were a greater community exposure, we would be sure to let everyone know.”

Klassen also requested that the community respect the privacy of the family involved.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.