Declaration of global emergency over coronavirus will have 'little impact' locally: Toronto's top doctor
Chris Herhalt and Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, January 30, 2020 7:11AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 30, 2020 5:05PM EST
Toronto’s top doctor says that the risk posed to the city by a novel coronavirus outbreak remains low despite a decision by the World Health Organization to declare a global emergency.
The U.N. health agency announced earlier on Thursday that it would make the declaration amid concerns that the virus could “spread to countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it."
In a statement issued following that announcement, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said that the decision has “little impact” on the work that is being done locally by public health officials.
“At this time the situation in Toronto has not changed and the risk to our community remains low. I will let you know directly if this changes,” she said. “Upon the first reports of 2019-nCoV in China, Toronto Public Health experts and our provincial and federal health partners implemented response protocols and outbreak preparedness measures. These efforts are ongoing and we continually look for opportunities to refine and strengthen our response.”
China has reported more than 7,800 cases, including 170 deaths, as a result of the novel coronavirus.
There have also been confirmed cases in 18 other countries, including Canada.
In her statement, de Villa said that her team “continues to work around the clock” in containing the virus and have “followed up with all known contacts” of the two known cases locally.
“We continue to share updates and facts to the public as quickly as possible. At this time, I also want to remind the public to seek credible, evidence-based sources of information,” she said.
Provincial officials investigating 27 people
It should be noted that provincial health officials are investigating 27 people for possible coronavirus infection but they say that they have encountered no other positive cases since double-confirming Ontario’s second case on Wednesday.
Doctors in Ontario have previously said they would isolate and investigate anyone who reported recent travel to the Wuhan area and the presence of respiratory illness or related symptoms.
Those being investigated are either brought to hospital or ordered to self-isolate in their homes.
Ontario Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said that since the start of the outbreak, 67 people have been tested in Ontario, with 38 coming back negative and the 27 others under observation still pending.
She said most of the 27 under observation, who are located “all over” the province, are in self-isolation at home.
Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said the fact that no one else has tested positive is reassuring, but provincial and local health workers are still on alert.
“This is reassuring in a way, but not in a way that we are going to sit back and coast.”
The province’s two confirmed case are a middle-aged couple who returned to Toronto from the Wuhan area of China last week.
A woman in her mid-50s was aboard China Southern Airlines Flight CZ311 on Jan. 22, along with her husband, which landed at Toronto Pearson from Guangzhou.
Both she and her husband had spent time in Wuhan, Hubei Province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.
Her husband was taken to Sunnybrook Hospital on Jan. 23, where he remains in stable condition.
A sample from the woman tested positive at Ontario’s public health laboratory for the virus on Monday.
On Wednesday, the National Microbiology lab in Winnipeg confirmed Ontario’s finding.
Health officials previously said she was asymptomatic and staying in isolation at her own home.
On Thursday, Yaffe said the wife was doing “well.”
The couple represent Canada’s first two confirmed cases.
Federal officials on Wednesday night confirmed a third Canadian case of the disease, in a B.C. man in his 40s.
Yaffe said that officials had successfully reached out to everyone sitting within three metres of the couple that fell ill on China Southern Airlines Flight CZ311, and all of them are checking in daily with public health workers.
Doctors in Ontario also say they have widened their parameters for testing and isolating possible cases.
Now, anyone with recent travel to anywhere in China’s Hubei province, along with a cough, respiratory illness or just a fever will be tested.