The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) an emergency of “international concern” on Jan. 30, after it was first reported from Wuhan, China late last year. Canadian officials stress that the risk of contracting the virus in this country remains low. But Canadians are worried and want information about the disease.
Here are the latest developments:
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They cause a range of illness ranging from the common cold and pneumonia to other severe diseases — such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and now 2019-nCOV, the current outbreak.
WATCH | A short video answering many of the main questions:
The initial symptoms of 2019-nCoV are mainly fever, with a few reports of people having difficulty breathing, and chest X-rays showing signs of pneumonia in both lungs.
The WHO says signs of infection can include respiratory complaints, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe respiratory problems, kidney failure and even death.
Low risk for Canadians
Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease specialist in Toronto, explains why Canadians don’t need to panic. He says this coronavirus is not as contagious as influenza, nor as dangerous as SARS.
What to do if you think you’ve been exposed
If you think you have been exposed to the coronavirus — for example, if you have travelled to Wuhan and are having symptoms — the Public Health Agency of Canada advises avoiding contact with others and following up with your health-care professional.
This story explains what you should do to avoid spreading the infection to anyone else as you seek medical help.
Preventing the spread
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, coronaviruses are most commonly spread by:
- Coughing or sneezing.
- Close personal contact, such as shaking hands.
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.
To prevent infection:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay home if you are sick.
CBC News got access to the high-security lab in Saskatchewan where scientists are working to develop a vaccine.
Where this coronavirus came from
One of the main ways scientists can figure out how to prevent the spread of an infectious disease is to zero in on its animal host and how it jumped from that animal to a person.
According to Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist who teaches medical students about environmental change and human health at the University of Toronto, “if we don’t deal with the heart of the problem where these things can emerge, it could easily happen again.”
It has become too common for misinformation to spread on social media, which in turn causes fear and panic. It’s happening with the coronavirus outbreak.
WATCH | Tips to protect yourself from getting — and spreading — false information about the coronavirus:
Should you wear a mask?
The short answer is — it depends.
Are you sick? Wear a mask.
Are you trying to keep from getting sick? A mask probably won’t help.
WATCH | The full explanation:
Travel to China
The Canadian government is warning against all travel to the coronavirus-affected region of China.
Air Canada is among the airlines that have suspended flights to parts of China.
What about Canadians in China?
More than 200 Canadians requested help from Ottawa to leave China due to the outbreak. On Thursday afternoon, a flight carrying 176 Canadians flew out of Wuhan.
The foreign affairs minister says a second chartered flight carrying the remaining Canadians will leave Wuhan on Monday.