A passenger wears a mask at the international arrivals area at the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Thursday, January 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Keep calm and wash your hands: B.C. pharmacist’s tips on coronavirus prevention

Coronavirus is still contained to three isolated patients in Canada

Although the coronavirus may be the new outbreak this year, a B.C. pharmacist says the best advice remains to just wash you hands.

“The most effective way of preventing transmission is hand washing with soap and water,” said Gianni Del Negro, a pharmacist at London Drugs’ Dunbar store in Vancouver.

Del Negro said the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed at least 170 people and infected more than 7,800 in China as of Thursday afternoon, has sent people running to pharmacies to buy masks – even though they don’t work.

“The typical surgical mask… they really are not going to protect people from getting a viral infection,” Del Negro told Black Press Media.

But, Del Negro said, not only are the masks unnecessary, buying them up can have harmful effects for those who do need them.

READ MORE: Canada’s chief public health officer says no vaccine for coronavirus for a year

READ MORE: Feds preparing plane to fly Canadians out of Wuhan, once China gives OK

The only masks that are effective in stopping the spread of coronavirus are called N95 masks, a type of heavy-duty mask used in hospitals and higher-risk situations.

“People who are immunocompromised, those who are going through chemotherapy and right now they can’t get access to them,” Del Negro said.

“We shouldn’t be panicking and wiping out all the stock that’s out there. We have nothing in-store.”

But aside from the less-than-helpful masks, Del Negro said there’s lots of things people can do.

While washing with soap and water is idea, he said hand sanitizer is the next best thing.

Aside from that, Del Negro said it can help to sanitize household surfaces and door knobs with Lysol or similar cleaners, and to avoid touching your face after touching the not-so-clean surfaces on transit or in other public areas.

Del Negro said much of the panic surrounding the new virus is due to memories of SARS, which killed 44 people in Canada during the 2003 outbreak.

“It was a very scary time,” he said. “But at the present time, the risk is very low.”

There are currently three confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Canada. They include a husband and wife in Toronto and a man in the Vancouver area, all three of whom started showing symptoms after returning from Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicentre. American authorities said they saw their first case of human-to-human transmission this week and the World Health Organization declared it a global emergency Thursday.

READ MORE: World Health Organization declares coronavirus a global emergency

However, the Canadian cases, Del Negro said, are very isolated and haven’t led to any further infection.

The newness of this coronavirus, he said, is part of the reason it has people scared more than a disease like the flu, which kills 3,500 Canadians each year.

Although Del Negro didn’t want to play down the potential harms, he did note it’s only this strain of the coronavirus, passed from animal to humans, that’s new. Coronavirus encompasses a large group of viruses, which can cause everything from the common cold, to SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Anyone who does think they’re infected should stay isolated, make sure to cough into the crook of their elbow instead of their hand, and visit a healthcare professional.

VIDEO: Lab confirms B.C. case of new coronavirus, bringing total to 3 in Canada


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Conflict expert explains how to talk to people who aren’t social distancing

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

Saanich moves forward with summer camp registration despite COVID-19

District to give full refunds if camps are cancelled

COVID-19: Managing your mental health from isolation

Ministry of Mental Health, Addictions recommends numerous strategies for self-care during pandemic

Oak Bay deputy police chief and family cut Guatemala vacation short to return home

Belize border, punctured gas tank part of the adventure

Sunday morning fire damages Victoria gas station

The fire on Fairfield Road caused $75,000 in estimated damages to tires and automotive equipment

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Researchers look at humidity as a weapon in the fight against airborne viruses

Regular hand washing, physical distancing and PPE for health care workers remains best line of defense

Most Read