A man wears a masks as a precaution due to the coronavirus outbreak as people arrive from the International terminal at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Saturday, January 25, 2020. Canadian health officials announced a first presumed case in Ontario after the illness has sickened more than 1,200 people and killed at least 41 in China, the epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Officials in Toronto are interviewing all those who had contact with the man diagnosed with Canada’s first case of the new coronavirus to ensure none of them were infected.

Authorities announced yesterday that they had detected the respiratory illness in a man who recently travelled to Toronto from Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the virus.

He’s being quarantined at Sunnybrook Hospital, and his family members are in “self isolation” as a precaution to keep the disease from spreading.

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China, but it remains to be seen whether it’s as dangerous as the common flu, which kills 3,500 people every year in Canada alone.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, are set to hold a news conference this morning to provide an update on the situation.

Meanwhile, Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, believes the risk of contracting the virus in the province remains low.

He said the strategy of educating the public — championed by the federal government — appears to have worked, at least in the case of the first patient.

“The individual, knowing his responsibility, when feeling unwell, even without having really severe symptoms, was concerned enough and informed prompt enough,” Williams told a news conference on Saturday evening. “That just tells you that people have knowledge of it, they want to take proper precautions to protect their health and protect their family members and others.”

READ MORE: Here’s what Canada is doing to stop the coronavirus from getting in

Tam told reporters on Thursday that rather than screening every single passenger coming to Canada from China, the federal government was instead providing travellers with information about what to do should they start to feel sick.

The new virus comes from a large family of coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a common cold.

But in late 2002, a coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome erupted in southern China, causing a severe pneumonia that rapidly spread to other countries. SARS infected more than 8,000 people and killed nearly 800, including 44 Canadians. Toronto was hard hit in that outbreak.

A decade later, another coronavirus dubbed Middle East respiratory syndrome began sickening people in Saudi Arabia. MERS is still prevalent, causing small numbers of infections each year. The World Health Organization has counted nearly 2,500 cases in the Middle East and beyond, and more than 850 deaths.

READ MORE: Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto, officials say

SARS and MERS came from animals, and this newest virus may have as well. The first people infected visited or worked at a seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which has been placed under quarantine since the outbreak.

Canadian authorities have said such a quarantine won’t happen here, even if there is an outbreak.

The federal government has beefed up measures at major airports in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, asking travellers whether they had been to Wuhan in the past 14 days, with a positive response triggering further investigation.

Everyone is also being urged to practice good hygiene that helps prevent the transmission of all viruses — washing hands thoroughly, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home if you’re sick.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Islands Trust Conservancy gets funding for protection of at-risk species

Conservancy manages habitat for more than 25 plant and animal species at risk

Nanaimo’s Western Edge Theatre returns to the stage in Port Theatre debut

Theatre group presents ‘2 Across,’ described as a ‘middle-aged romantic comedy’

Purebred breeders go for a walk in Nanaimo to show off their dogs

Purebred dog breeders sometimes get a bad rap, says event organizer

City reviewing plans for huge Sandstone project in south Nanaimo

Seacliff Properties says it’s been told to be ready for a public hearing this fall

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Most Read