B.C. public health officials have tested 114 patients for Wuhan coronavirus, with no new positive tests since the one patient identified last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday.
A “handful” of those tested were identified at Vancouver International Airport, where flights from China continue by airlines other than Air Canada, Henry told reporters at a briefing at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Most have been identified by doctors at offices and hospitals based on presenting similar influenza-like symptoms and sent for testing.
Henry said the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global emergency from the new virus does not change anything for Canada or B.C., which already has the recommended measures in place. It is directed at less developed countries such as India where modern health care is not as widely available, she said.
Canada’s measures were set up 10 days ago, and that means B.C. and other Pacific Rim regions are at a “critical stage,” where travellers would be starting to show symptoms of coronavirus, Henry said. The incubation period for the new virus has been averaging five days, and most infected people would notice they are ill after 10 days.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has a frequently updated web page on the novel coronavirus. As of Friday, it reported that outside of mainland China, there have been 152 confirmed cases and no deaths.
The first B.C. patient continues to be stable and recovering at home, and testing will continue with any suspected cases to stop it spreading, as was done with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) when it emerged in 2003, said Henry, who worked on the SARS epidemic.
Health Canada describes typical symptoms of the newly emerged virus “2019-nCOV” as headache, coughing, a sore throat and fever. More serious cases can develop into SARS, pneumonia, respiratory failure or kidney failure.
Henry said the new virus is believed to have been transmitted from animals to humans as a result of the large animal and seafood markets in Wuhan, the Chinese city where it was first identified. The intensive measures being taken around the world are to contain and eradicate the strain from the human population.
Henry said the effort is directed at the new coronavirus because it has the potential to become another type of influenza that circulates every year, and can be fatal for people with compromised health who are exposed.
“The reason is because this is a new virus that has just jumped the species barrier,” Henry said. “We have one opportunity as a global community to push this back, and that opportunity is now.”