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Canada Coronavirus: Five Quebecers under hospital observation

20:35  23 january  2020
20:35  23 january  2020 Source:   montrealgazette.com

Travellers at Pearson to be asked about coronavirus amid pneumonia outbreak in China

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a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Commuters wear face masks as they wait at a train station in Wuhan, China.© Xiaolu Chu Commuters wear face masks as they wait at a train station in Wuhan, China.

Quebec’ s chief public health officer revealed Wednesday that five people in the province who travelled recently to China are under hospital observation for possible exposure to the new coronavirus that is spreading through Asia.

However, Dr. Horacio Arruda emphasized this does not mean that any of the five individuals have, in fact, contracted the 2019-nCoV virus that has been blamed for the deaths of 17 people in Wuhan, China.

“These are not (confirmed) cases,” Arruda told reporters in Quebec City.

“These are people who have a history that might be compatible with exposure. Often, people will have a cold, like you and I, but because they went to China or if they went to this specific region, we’re being careful. (In such situations) the majority of cases will be negative, but we would rather act out of an abundance of caution than allow a case to slip through into the community.”

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Initially, there were six people from Montreal and the Quebec City region whom authorities decided to place under observation. But one person was given the all-clear, Arruda added.

Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency of Canada reiterated that no Canadians have fallen ill from the coronavirus.

Alexandre Lahaie, press attaché to Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann, explained that authorities need to wait for the results of a genetic test to confirm or rule out cases. That could take up to 24 hours.

“We’re not taking any chances,” Lahaie told the Montreal Gazette.

Arruda drew a parallel between the current outbreak of the coronavirus and the SARS epidemic that also originated in China. He acknowledged authorities have learned lessons from the mistakes made in 2003 in dealing with SARS.

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“The whole world has learned lessons,” Arruda added. “It should be understood that in the SARS crisis, the Chinese authorities took time before declaring the situation.”

The SARS epidemic erupted in early November 2002 in Guangdong province, but Chinese officials waited until February 2003 to inform the World Health Organization. This time around, the Chinese government waited nine days before making a public statement on Jan. 9 that a new type of coronavirus caused a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan.

To date, more than 540 people have been infected in China. Cases have also been diagnosed in the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macao as well as in Japan, Thailand and South Korea. On Tuesday, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control confirmed that a man from the state of Washington who had travelled to China had picked up the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the WHO postponed declaring a global health emergency. Officials will meet again on Thursday.

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Dr. Caroline Quach , in charge of infection control at Ste-Justine Hospital, echoed Arruda’s remarks about SARS.

“With SARS, it took months before we were even able to know what was causing the epidemic,” she said. “We were seeing reports of atypical pneumonia. People were thinking it was a bacteria. So it took longer. So by the time we knew it was a problem, the horse had left the barn.

“But in this situation,” Quach added, “the epidemic was declared at the end of December, and we’re not even at the end of January and we already know that it’s a coronavirus, and the entire (genome of the) virus has been sequenced.”

As a result of that sequencing, the Quebec Public Health Laboratory can determine through a genetic test whether a patient has the virus.

The SARS epidemic also exposed slipshod infection control in hospitals. SARS caused outbreaks in two Toronto hospitals, which did not immediately practise what is known as droplet-contact precautions, one of the highest degrees of infection control.

In the aftermath of the Toronto epidemic that infected more than 250 people, the Public Health Agency of Canada was created.

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“Infection-control programs have been beefed up everywhere,” Quach explained. “There’s more direction I would say at the federal and provincial levels, and it’s not just left up to the hospitals to decide what they want to do with their cases.”

In Quebec, the SARS crisis had prompted François Legault, who was health minister at the time under the Parti Québécois government, to decide that the Montreal General Hospital should stay put and not move to the future superhospital of the McGill University Health Centre. The rationale was that should a similar epidemic strike a hospital in the city, authorities would be able to respond better by keeping the Montreal General in place.

Presse Canadienne contributed to this report

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Canada has fourth case of new coronavirus, but officials say it is a mild one .
TORONTO — Canada now has four confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, though health officials say the latest Ontario case is a mild one and there's no evidence of heightened risk to the public. A woman in her 20s who is a university student in London, Ont., returned to Canada from the affected area in China on Jan. 23, Ontario health officials said Friday, but she didn't show any symptoms until the next day. A woman in her 20s who is a university student in London, Ont., returned to Canada from the affected area in China on Jan. 23, Ontario health officials said Friday, but she didn't show any symptoms until the next day.

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