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Coronavirus: What is it and what are the risks in Canada?

Dr. Joti Samra

February 25th, 2020

Resiliency

What is Coronavirus and what are the risks in Canada?

In recent weeks, news of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been at the forefront of many of our minds. For some, the news has increased anxiety and concern about personal risk. The first step in managing this type of anxiety is educating yourself. So, here we are going to talk about what the coronavirus is, signs of infection, prevention recommendations, and the current risk to Canadians.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness – ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.  Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

Signs

Common signs of infection by a coronavirus include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

How coronavirus spreads

Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets generated when one coughs or sneezes;
  • close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; or,
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Prevention

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include the following:

  • regular hand washing;
  • covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing;
  • thoroughly cooking meat and eggs;
  • avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing;
  • avoiding individuals with chronic conditions, compromised immune systems and older adults;
  • staying home if you are sick; and,
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

What are the Risks of Coronavirus in Canada?

As of February 21, 2020, only 9 cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have been confirmed in Canada.

The ordinary flu is so far responsible for 15 million infections, 140,000 hospitalizations, and 8,200 deaths in the United States just this season. In comparison, as of February 22, 2020, the coronavirus has only infected approximately 78,367 people around the world (the vast majority of them in China) with 2459 deaths. It is believed the coronavirus’s death rate is around 3 percent. But since the flu is something we experience so regularly we don’t pay much attention to it, therefore, our fear is lessened.  So, while it’s important to stay informed of the potential risks in your area during a public health emergency of this type, it’s equally as important to be realistic about your risk and take the precautions that are being recommended.

Stay up to date with how the coronavirus is spreading here.

Canadians and Travel

Canada has no direct flights from Wuhan, and the volume of travellers arriving indirectly from Wuhan is low. However, at this time, the Government of Canada recommends that – in addition to health behaviours which prevent the spread of infection – Canadians avoid non-essential travel to China.

 

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