Health officials in Quebec keeping tabs on spread of coronavirus
MONTREAL -- As a potentially deadly virus has spread from central China to other Asian countries, and now to North America, officials in Quebec are keeping a close watch on the disease.
Health Minister Danielle McCann said Tuesday that officials are getting regular updates about the coronavirus outbreak.
"I want to reassure Quebecers that we're following the situation on an hourly basis. We have to remind people that there are no cases in Quebec, that the Public Health Agency of Canada is following the situation internationally and we are in contact with them continuously," said McCann.
This outbreak of the coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, China, and subsequently spread to other cities in China, as well as South Korea, Thailand, and Japan.
On Tuesday, a traveller from China landed in Seattle showing symptoms of the disease.
Six deaths -- all in China -- are linked to the coronavirus, and more than 300 people have fallen ill with the flu-like disease. More than 200 people are currently being treated in hospital.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Matthew Oughton of McGill University said the symptoms of this particular illness are not unusual.
"This is very much like what we feel are other severe respiratory viruses: fever, cough, shortness of breath, pneumonia," said Dr. Oughton.
His concern about the Wuhan coronavirus is tied to the date.
"China, five days from now, is starting its Lunar New Year, which is the single-largest mass human migration event in the world, year on year, which means hundreds of millions of people are going to be travelling, which means there's lots of people in close proximity," said Dr. Oughton.
"This is an opportunity for the virus to travel far beyond where it's centred right now."
WHO MEETING ON WEDNESDAY
The sudden rise of a potentially deadly disease alerted health officials around the world.
"Our director of public health is very aware of the situation. Everybody is following [it], and there's going to be a very important meeting tomorrow [Wednesday] by the World Health Organization," said McCann.
At that meeting WHO officials will decide if the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak should be considered a global health emergency.
The SARS outbreak in 2002 was another highly infectious coronavirus. Before it was contained it infected more than 8,000 people in 37 countries -- including Canada -- and killed 774 people.
The far-more-deadly MERS coronavirus developed in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and so far has sickened 2,500 people, killing 35 percent of them. MERS appears to have a difficult time transmitting from person to person, and most of those infected are in close contact with dromedary camels.
The Wuhan coronavirus seems to transmit between people relatively easily, and it's too early to tell how deadly it will be.
Health officials say, as always, the best way to prevent getting sick is to take precautions.
"If people are sick, they should wear masks, they should wash hands," said McCann.
She also said that while airports -- including Trudeau airport -- are checking on passengers, anyone traveller who feels ill should inform officials.