MONTREAL -- There are still no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Quebec as of Thursday morning, and the province's health department is urging calm and calling on the public, as well as the media, not to spread disinformation that could lead to panic.

"There is a lot of information currently circulating in the media, and it is important to make sense of it since many of it is exaggerated, even false," said Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health. "We, therefore, wanted to take stock to remind the general public that there is no cause for excessive concern, although it remains important to be cautious and to promote protective measures, as prevention is always essential in such situations."

Arruda noted that the situation in Quebec remains stable - four people showing symptoms of the illness earlier this week have all tested negative for coronavirus; no Quebecers are currently being tested - even though it is possible that Quebecers could yet become infected, most likely by travellers who may have picked up the virus abroad. However, generally speaking, Arruda said the risk of widespread coronavirus transmission in Quebec remains low.

With news reports about protective masks being sold out at pharmacies across the province, Arruda also took time to point out that there is little scientific evidence to suggest that they actually help in protecting against the average person contracting coronavirus, but could be effective for people already diagnosed with it from spreading it, and is also recommended for health professionals who are caring for them.

Arruda said the best method to lower the risk of transmission is to employ basic hygiene practices such as covering one's nose and mouth in the crook of one's arm when sneezing and coughing, as well as regularly washing one's hands with hot water and soap or other disinfectant.

The public health department is also urging anyone who has recently travelled to regions of China that have been affected by coronavirus to report if they are suffering any symptoms of it - such as fever, coughing and difficulty breathing - by calling 811.