After the first North American case of the new coronavirus was confirmed in Seattle, Washington, today (January 21), B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a joint statement as annual mass migrations begin for the Lunar New Year (January 25).
Echoing Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam's statement on January 20 about the risk level for Canadians, the B.C. government is assessing the risk to citizens in this province as low.
Dix and Henry stated that quarantine officers are at Vancouver International Airport to coordinate any necessary response and Richmond Hospital infection control practitioners are available if further investigation of a patient is required.
In addition, the statement explained that screening for early detection of infections for traveler arriving at airports has been implemented.
Thus far, the only reported measures at Vancouver International Airport have been the implementation of messages on arrival signage, an additional health screening question on electronic kiosks, and reminders for travellers to report any illnesses to border service officers.
However in comparison, three U.S. airports (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City) are screening arriving travellers from Wuhan, China, in a separate area, giving them a questionnaire, and using thermal scanners to detect illness.
According to the B.C. health ministry statement, B.C. healthcare workers have been instructed to record the travel history of anyone who has respiratory symptoms and to report any suspected cases to medical health officer.
The news release also stated that the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has developed a diagnostic test for the coronavirus, which marks a difference from the SARS outbreak (which didn’t have an equivalent test).
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control and provincial and federal authorities are monitoring the outbreak.
“Canada's Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health is meeting regularly with the Public Health Agency of Canada, which is co-ordinating with the World Health Organization,” the statement reads. “Future actions to prevent the spread of this coronavirus will continue to be co-ordinated with these organizations.”
Anyone who may have been exposed to, or are experiencing coronavirus symptoms should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 811.
For more information on the coronavirus, visit the federal webpage for the Canadian travel advisory for Wuhan, China.
Thus far, cases outside of China include three in Thailand, one in Japan, one in South Korea, one in Taiwan, and one in the U.S.
The Philippines is monitoring a potential case in Cebu City.
The number of new virus cases has risen to 440 in China, with nine deaths, as of midnight on January 21 (Beijing time).
Meanwhile, University of Saskatchewan researchers are working towards creating a vaccine for the new coronavirus.