TORONTO — Canada’s first presumptive case of the novel coronavirus has been officially confirmed, Ontario health officials said Monday as they announced the patient’s wife has also contracted the illness. Meanwhile, 19 cases are under investigation in the province.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, said the confirmation came through earlier in the day following tests at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. A Toronto man in his mid-50s had initially tested positive at a provincial facility days after returning to Toronto from Wuhan — the virus’s epicentre in China — via Guangzhou.
Yaffe said the testing process is now being repeated for the man’s wife, believed to be the second coronavirus patient in the country.
Public health officials say the woman’s husband had been showing mild symptoms on his flight from Guangzhou to Toronto. Upon arrival at Toronto, the man did not report to border-service officers that he was feeling ill, despite “detection” measures at the airport, which includes screening questions at electronic border kiosks that ask about previous travel to Wuhan in the past 14 days and remind people to report flu-like symptoms to border service agents.
A day after the man went home, a family member called 911 to report he was feeling ill, and that he had recently travelled to Wuhan, the National Post’s Sharon Kirkey reports. Paramedics, donned in protective gear, took him to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he was immediately placed in isolation in a negative-pressure room. He was listed in stable condition Saturday.
After he became more ill, “when he needed medical support, in fact he followed all the information provided at the airport,” federal health minister Patty Hajdu said. “For me, that is a sign that the information at the border did actually percolate through to the patient and his family.”
A spokesperson for the ministry of health told the Post that the 19 people under investigation exhibited some of the symptoms of coronavirus and had a travel history to affected areas, while the presumptive cases tested positive with the provincial test.
“In many ways, this case is not surprising,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health. “This individual has been in close proximity to her husband and, having also arrived in Toronto from the area of Wuhan, could also have been exposed to the virus in China.”
Toronto public health is working “flat out” to try to contact those passengers on the couple’s Jan. 22 flight from Beijing most at risk of infection – people in the three rows in front of and behind the pair’s own seats, said Dr. Eileen De Villa, the city’s medical officer of health.
She said they had so far managed to reach a “few” of them, but did not say exactly how many passengers the department is targeting.
The Post’s Tom Blackwell reports the vast majority of the 19 people under investigation in various parts of the province have been admitted to hospital and are in isolation, with appropriate protective measures taken around them, said Yaffe.
Canada’s chief public health officer has said she believes there will be more cases “imported into Canada” because of global flight patterns, but she notes there’s little risk of becoming infected here.
The Toronto man “has been managed with all appropriate infection and prevention control protocols, so the risk of onward spread in Canada is low,” Tam said.
“Nevertheless it would not be unexpected that there will be more cases imported into Canada in the near term given global travel patterns.” Nine other suspected cases in Ontario alone were under investigation as of Sunday.
The news of Canada’s first coronavirus patient came Saturday as authorities around the world grappled with the new type of virus, which originated in China but has since spread.
Several countries, including the United States, have said they plan to evacuate diplomats and visitors from Wuhan, the virus’s epicentre.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in a statement Sunday that Canada doesn’t have a diplomatic presence in Wuhan, but he noted the government is in contact with and providing assistance to Canadians in the area.
China is reporting 2,744 cases and 81 deaths, but it remains to be seen whether the virus is as dangerous as the common flu, which kills thousands every year in Canada alone.
A top Chinese health official warned on Sunday that the virus’s spread was accelerating despite a lockdown affecting 56 million people. The quarantine could make the situation worse, including by exacerbating shortages of medical supplies.
Most of the 2,744 people who have contracted the virus live in China, but it has spread to 10 other countries. Five cases have been confirmed in the U.S.
Canadian doctors are urging concerned citizens to take the same sorts of precautions they would to avoid common illnesses, such as frequent hand-washing and coughing into the arm or sleeve rather than the hand.
They also say that wearing surgical masks during everyday life has little use in protecting against coronavirus, despite being effective in hospital settings. Early data on the new form of virus suggests masks won’t be especially effective, and some say that repeatedly touching and adjusting the masks with unwashed hands could do more harm than good.
But the fear that would prompt someone to buy such a mask is perhaps heightened by parallels to the 2002 SARS outbreak that originated in China and infected more than 8,000 people, killing 800. There were 44 Canadians killed by that strain of coronavirus.
Chinese-Canadians speak out against racism in light of coronavirus fears – CTV News
Members of the Chinese-Canadian community are speaking out against racist and sinophobic backlash against East Asian people over widespread fear of the coronavirus – known as 2019-nCoV – reminiscent of the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
SARS killed more than 700 people worldwide in five months -including 44 in the Toronto area. Many of the affected were healthcare workers who were on the frontline of patient care, dealing with an outbreak authorities were slow to pick up on. Two nurses and a doctor were among the Canadians who died.
Members of the Chinese-Canadian and Southeast Asian-Canadian communities suffered job losses, threats of eviction and ostracization of their businesses, all of which was detailed in a 2004 report entitled, “Yellow Peril Revisited”– a reference to historical anti-Chinese rhetoric.
“When a disease is racialized, you need to know that the every-day racism targeted at folks is bad and the trauma and anxiety remain,” said author and educator Dr. Carrianne Leung on Twitter Monday. “During SARS, the hyper surveillance and containment in public spaces, transit, their workplaces, schools, were terrible to live through.”
In the case of 2019-nCoV, there is currently one confirmed case and two presumptive case in Canada, but public health officials have said that more cases “would not be unexpected.”
While health officials have been urging Canadians to remain calm because the risk to public health is low, memories of the SARS outbreak and the impact on the Asian-Canadian community are quick to resurface.
“As a Chinese-Canadian woman and a Chinese-looking woman, having a cough these days would scare a lot of people away,” said Amy Go, interim president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice (CCNCSJ) in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca Tuesday.
The CCNCSJ is a national organization that is aimed at addressing the issue of racism and discrimination and promoting equity and social justice.
Go said she was very pleased with the media’s efforts to reach out to groups including the CCNCSJ immediately after the first two Canadian cases of 2019-nCoV were announced, to “relate the experience from the SARS outbreak and to try and prevent that from happening again.”
However, Go noted that a lot of the public tension surrounding 2019-nCoV is currently centered around schools and online on social media platforms .
A petition, titled “Stop the Potential spreading of the Novel coronavirus in schools of York Region, Ontario,” calls for schools to keep track of students who have recently travelled to China and asks for families to stay isolated for a minimum of 17 days. As of this article’s publishing time, it had more than 9,000 signatures.
The York Region District School Board (YRDSB) responded by releasing a note to parents that “individuals who make assumptions, even with positive intentions of safety about the risks of others and request or demand quarantine can be seen as demonstrating bias and racism,” according to The Canadian Press.
On Twitter and other platforms, a video of a young Chinese woman using chopsticks and biting into a whole bat went viral as the news of 2019-nCoV began to spread out of Wuhan. Some media outlets picked up and promoted the video, and sinophobic, racist sentiment filled comments sections.
It turned out that the video was not filmed in China, and was a segment taken from Chinese celebrity vlogger Wang Mengyun’s trip to Palau, a Pacific island nation, in 2016.
She broke her silence Monday after allegedly being inundated with death threats, releasing a statement defending herself and the local cuisine she tried on her trip abroad.
Go said those reactions are a result of “racial profiling” of the Chinese community and are “purely out of unfounded fear and anxiety.”
“I was very unhappy to see that even amongst my own Facebook friends, who are highly educated, who experienced SARS, who have worked in social services or work in health, condone the racial profiling of the community,” she said, adding that those responses included members of the Chinese-Canadian community.
“I am very disheartened by that… the social media response is sad, frustrating and concerning for Chinese-Canadians,” Go said. “It labels, marginalizes and discriminates against the community.”
Go said that compared to SARS, which was “seen as a ‘hospital disease’” due to its effect on health-care workers, 2019-nCoV is seen as a “community thing,” and has allowed “irrational perceptions” and “deep-seated racism to rear its head.”
“We collectively have a responsibility to speak up and educate everybody about racism and discrimination,” Go said, adding that especially includes children and their parents.
“You must [tell your children] there is racism, there is discrimination during times such as this one, unfortunately some of your fellow students are going to be targeted and how can we help them?” she said. “Children are smart, and bright – they know, they understand and see that. They see the bullying and how people are being marginalized and isolated and being hurt.”
Go, who worked alongside Ontario public health officials during the SARS outbreak to speak out against racism and targeted discrimination, is urging all “levels of government” to take this opportunity to “correct misconceptions and racist behaviour” being displayed in response to 2019-nCoV and address how that affects public health. Something she says that the 2007 public inquiry into the SARS epidemic failed to do.
“We’re one step behind,” Go said. “The coronavirus is unfortunately not going to end immediately – so it is a continuing responsibility of public health and individual responsibility to address racism.”
Toronto dad calls on Ottawa to help get his stranded toddler out of Wuhan – CBC.ca
A Toronto man is calling on the Canadian government to help him and his wife get their 15-month-old daughter out of Wuhan, China amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Richard Fabic, 45, says he is worried about his daughter Chloe, nicknamed Coco, and frustrated that the government has not taken action.
He has tweeted to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne but has not yet received a reply from either. He has received a response from a spokesperson for his MP.
“I’m certainly scared, worried, frustrated with the lack of response that I hear. I feel helpless. There’s not much I can do,” Fabic told CBC Toronto on Tuesday.
“I missed her before, but now, I miss her more.”
Fabic, who works in cyber-security, said he has support from friends. But he added: “There’s only so much you can talk it out.”
Wuhan, a city in central China, is under quarantine because of the coronavirus, which has sickened nearly 6,000 people and killed at least 132.
Fabic said he and his wife, Yunfei Li, who is in Victoria, would like the government to follow the lead of other countries, including the U.S. and Japan, and begin airlifting Canadians, including their daughter and her grandparents, out of Wuhan.
“What I would like is a clear plan of action from the government,” Fabic said.
Li went to Wuhan with her parents and Chloe to visit relatives in early December. Li’s family is from Wuhan. She has a number of cousins with children around the same age of Chloe.
The plan was to stay for three weeks, then Li was to leave early. She was to return to Toronto, then head to Victoria, where the couple, their daughter and her grandparents are all moving because Li has accepted a new position.
Chloe was to stay in China while couple got ready for move
Li was to set up their new home and Chloe was to stay back in Wuhan with her grandparents to give Li time to get organized. The grandparents have been living in Toronto.
Li did leave early at the end of December, then the new coronavirus hit. Chloe and her grandparents are still there.
“Really, we were dividing and conquering the tasks,” Fabic said.
“Over here in Toronto, my job was to get ready for the move, pack everything up and send it over. Her job was to find a place in Victoria and then unpack and then I would meet her there. And then everything was ready, our daughter would meet us there.”
The couple is shipping everything in their condo to Victoria. According to the plan, when Chloe finally went to Victoria in March, her new life would be set up for her. Now, Fabic doesn’t know how long Chloe will be in China.
“We were planning for kind of that next chapter, that next phase of life. Then the Wuhan crisis occurred,” Fabic said.
The week before the quarantine, Li’s parents said they had heard nothing indicating the magnitude of the problem. On Tuesday, Fabic and Li realized they needed get the three of them out. Then on Wednesday, the airport and public transportation were shut down. Fabic said Chloe and her grandparents had “no way” to leave.
“We couldn’t do anything,” he said.
Fabic said he is worried about any exposure to the coronavirus as well as access to food. “She’s really young. I’m not sure her immune system can take this,” he said.
China has taken drastic measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and last week, it cut plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million people. China has quarantined several other nearby cities since then, cutting off an estimated 19 million people.
Couple has obtained consular case number
According to Fabic, Li called Canadian consular officials repeatedly and was finally given a consular case number on Sunday.
Global Affairs Canada said in an email to CBC Toronto on Tuesday that it cannot comment.
“Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, we are unable to provide information on specific cases,” said Angela Savard, media relations spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada.
Champagne, the foreign minister, said on Tuesday that Ottawa is “looking at all options” to help Canadians quarantined in China during the outbreak.
Global Affairs Canada in contact with Canadians in Wuhan
Champagne said 250 Canadians have registered with Global Affairs Canada to say they are in Wuhan and 126 of them have asked for help to get home. He said his officials are trying to contact each one of them to assess their needs.
“Every Canadian that has reached out to us for consular assistance will receive it,” he said.
He said Canada will tailor its response based on what it finds after all the Canadians asking for help have been contacted.
He noted the number of Canadians seeking help keeps changing as more and more people register via the Global Affairs Canada website — the previous day, the number of Canadians registered in the region was 167.
Champagne said help could include sending a plane to fly them home, but that Canada is also working with other countries in similar situations. Canada doesn’t have a diplomatic office in Wuhan but other countries do and are airlifting their workers. In some cases, private citizens are leaving alongside the diplomats.
Champagne said Ottawa is in contact with the Chinese government about making sure Canada can help its citizens.
B.C. confirms province's first presumptive positive case of new coronavirus – CTV News
The first presumptive positive case of novel coronavirus has been detected in British Columbia, health officials confirmed Tuesday.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said one patient appears to be infected with the newly discovered coronavirus and is currently in isolation at home.
The individual is a 40-year-old male who travels to China regularly and was in Wuhan city on his most recent trip, officials said. He lives in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
“This is a gentleman who is well aware of what is going on in China and when he went home he voluntarily self-isolated,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry at a news conference Tuesday.
The man contacted a health-care provider on Jan. 26 to let them known he had travelled to Wuhan and was experiencing symptoms.
That health-care provider gave a diagnostic test, which came back positive on Monday night.
The man was monitoring his own symptoms carefully and his family is also being monitored by Vancouver Coastal Health. Henry said the man arrived back in Vancouver last week and his symptoms began showing more than 24 hours after arriving home.
“This person is currently doing well and does not need hospitalization,” Henry said. “This person was not symptomatic on his flight.”
Henry said there is no evidence that the virus spreads when a person is asymptomatic.
“That’s reassuring to us and that’s certainly in line with other coronavirus infections that we’ve seen in the past like SARS and MERS,” Henry said.
Right now the man’s case is considered “presumptive positive” because confirmation is done by a second test at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
“The sample is on its way to Winnipeg,” Henry said. “But given the history of travel, the contact that this person had in Wuhan city and the symptoms they were showing, we are confident that this truly is a case of this novel coronavirus.”
Henry said NML’s test result is expected in about 48 hours, but that she is confident in the result found by the B.C. lab’s test.
Case no surprise, officials say
Henry added that with the high amount of travel between Metro Vancouver and China, the presumptive positive case didn’t come as a surprise.
“This first case is not unexpected to us,” she said.
“This does not change what we are doing in British Columbia … I would have been surprised if we did not have one or two cases.”
Henry cautioned against listening to rumours of B.C. cases, saying that the provincial ministry will continue to update the public if more cases are confirmed.
“There has been a small number of people around the province that have been tested for this novel coronavirus and we have a very low threshold for that testing,” Henry said. “There have been a number of tests that have been done; this is the first one that has been positive.”
Prevention and screening measures
In a news release from the ministry of health, the province said the general public doesn’t necessarily need to take extra measures to protect themselves from the virus.
“It is not necessary for the general public to take special precautions beyond the usual measures recommended to prevent other common respiratory viruses during the winter period,” the news release said.
“Regular handwashing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow sleeve, disposing of tissues appropriately and avoiding contact with sick people are important ways to prevent the spread of respiratory illness generally.”
Previously, the BC Centre for Disease Control has developed a diagnostic test for the novel coronavirus and health-care workers have been asked to record the travel history for anyone reporting respiratory symptoms.
Travellers passing through Vancouver International Airport are also being screened when they arrive at the airport, particularly if they’ve visited Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to have originated.
Other cases in Canada
In Ontario, two cases have been recorded. One case has been confirmed while the second is considered presumptive positive.
Symptoms of the virus include a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever and a general feeling of being unwell.
“Anyone who is concerned they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus should contact their primary-care provider, local public health office or call 811,” the province said.
The outbreak of the virus began on Dec. 31 with what was initially believed to be a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, the capital city of China’s Hubei province.
Officials have since confirmed the patients were actually infected with a virus never previously identified in humans, which has been dubbed the 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV.
Coronaviruses are a “large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases,” according to Health Canada.
To date, the virus has infected more than 4,500 people and is blamed for over 100 deaths.
With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Andrew Weichel and the Associated Press
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