Public Health Agency of Canada deems Canadian risk low
By Atiba Nelson, Staff Reporter
As the World Health Organization (WHO) convenes an emergency committee on novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the Public Health Agency of Canada has deemed the public health risk associated with the new virus low risk to Canadians.
As of January 23, the World Health Organization has reported that 1,320 confirmed cases have been detected—with the majority identified in China—and twenty three confirmed cases reported in nine other countries outside of China.
On January 27, the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Canada was confirmed in Toronto. The Washington State Department of Health alerted the Centre for Disease Control that they had a confirmed travel-case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus on January 21, 2012—the first case in the United States. A second case was later reported on January 24.
2019-nCoV started in Wuhan, and was identified as the cause of an atypical pneumonia in a cluster of patients that had respiratory illness symptoms. Initially, all patients had links to a market in Wuhan where seafood and live animals were sold, suggesting an animal-to-human (or zoonotic) spread.
However, as new cases were detected and not linked to the market in Wuhan, plus the geographical spread of cases occurred in other Asian countries, such as Japan and Thailand, and now it is reported that there is evidence that human-to-human transmission is occurring. Though the ease and extend that human-to-human spread is possible has not been concluded.
The consideration of human-to-human spread is important as people travel throughout Asia for Chinese New Year celebrations. Additionally, person-to-person transmission increases the chance that the virus may be imported to Canada.
Recently, Canada enhanced airport measures to prevent the importation of 2019-nCoV into the country. Canadian Border Services has added an additional health screening question to the electronic immigration control kiosks and implemented messaging at Canadian international airports asking travellers to report any flu-like symptoms to border officers.
The WHO continues to update national health organizations, such as the Public Health Agency of Canada, daily; however, WHO capacity may be strained as the international health organization attempts to garner attention, support, and funds to combat the world’s worst measles epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—which has resulted in more than 6,000 deaths in the African country.