The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says the province’s 6th presumptive case of COVID-19, a woman in her 30s, flew on an Air Canada flight from Montreal to Vancouver on Valentine’s Day, eight days before she tested positive.
Officials say they have contacted those sitting close to her on the plane and flight staff as a precautionary measure.
Air Canada confirmed on Sunday that a passenger aboard one of its flights from Montreal to Vancouver on February 14 has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The BCCDC later confirmed it was indeed the case announced on Thursday.
The airline said health authorities confirmed the case with it on Feb. 22, more than a week after the flight. Air Canada says it’s working with public health authorities and has taken “all recommended measures.”
The latest person to test positive for the virus lives in the Fraser Valley, about an hour drive east of Vancouver, but had been visiting Iran, where there has been a spike in cases.
On Sunday, the World Health Organization said there were 28 confirmed cases and five deaths from the virus in Iran.
The case surprised officials in B.C. when they learned the patient had only visited Iran, and not China or neighbouring countries that have had the bulk of COVID-19 cases.
The woman went to hospital upon returning to Canada with flu-like symptoms. She is recovering in isolation at home.
Presence in airport
The Montreal Airport Authority told CBC News that it had not been informed about the case by either Air Canada or B.C. public health authorities, but it also wouldn’t expect to hear if they did not feel it was necessary.
The plane departed from Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport. The airport said it doesn’t know how long the passenger may have been in the airport.
In B.C. there have been five confirmed cases of COVID-19. The newest presumptive case will make it six, once a test is confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.
On Friday, the health authority in the Fraser Valley, where the person with the latest case is located, sent letters to schools districts saying one of her contacts may have attended school before the woman was diagnosed.
The letter emphasized that the contacts of the woman were not showing any signs of symptoms or illness while attending school and are currently well.
“There is no public health risks at schools in the region,” said the letter. “There is also no evidence that novel coronavirus is circulating in the community.”
New Ontario case
Meantime, officials in Ontario confirmed another presumptive case of COVID-19 in Toronto. It is a woman who arrived from China on Friday.
The province says it’s unlikely that the woman was infectious and that she followed protocols such as wearing a mask throughout her travels.
The WHO said on Sunday that there are more than 78,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in 28 countries.
Ontario health officials say there’s a new presumptive case of the novel coronavirus in Toronto.
They said a woman arrived in Canada from China on Friday and went to North York General Hospital in Toronto with an intermittent cough.
The province said the woman was tested for the new virus, known as COVID-19, and was sent home for self isolation because her illness was mild.
Officials said the woman’s local tests came back positive for the virus on Saturday and the sample has been sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg for confirmation.
The province said it’s unlikely that the woman was infectious.
It said she “followed all protocols and wore a mask throughout her travels back to Toronto.”
Since she landed, the woman has had “very limited” exposure to other people, the province added.
‘Risk to Ontarians remains low’
Officials said the province is coordinating with local public health units to ensure that they will contact and monitor passengers who sat close to the woman on the plane.
“Because of all the proper protocols and procedures that are in place to contain this virus and exposure to others was limited, I want to assure the public that the risk to Ontarians remains low,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said in a news release on Sunday.
“Protecting the health and well being of individuals and families across the province remains our top priority, and we continue to vigilantly monitor for and contain any and all new cases.”
Williams, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, and Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, will provide an update on the case at 9 a.m. on Monday at Queen’s Park.
According to the province, Ontario’s first three cases of the new coronavirus are all “resolved,” which means each of those patients have had two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
Three people in Ontario had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19, including a married couple in Toronto and a Western University student in London, Ont., after all of them had recently returned from travelling in China.
There are six known cases of the illness in British Columbia, most recently a woman in her 30s who returned to the province last week from travel in Iran.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday the woman’s presumptive case was relatively mild, and a number of her close contacts were already in isolation.
“This one, clearly, is a bit unusual in that the travel to Iran is something new,” Henry told a news conference at the B.C. legislature.
“Iran has recently started reporting cases and we’ll be working with our national and international colleagues to better understand where she may have been exposed to this virus prior to her return to Canada.”
Far more Canadians are affected by the virus outside of this country. An outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship saw 47 Canadians infected.
The cruise ship was docked in Yokohama, Japan, and placed under quarantine. People who were diagnosed with the illness are being treated at hospitals there, while those without symptoms were flown back to Ontario on Friday, where they’re going through another 14 days of isolation.
A sixth person in B.C. is believed to be infected with the coronavirus, and the case is raising new questions about how the disease is spreading, health officials announced Thursday.
The latest patient is a woman in her 30s who lives in the Fraser Health region, according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. She had recently returned from a trip to Iran and is now recovering at home.
Henry said officials were surprised when they learned the woman had only visited Iran, and not China or neighbouring countries that have seen the bulk of COVID-19 cases.
“That could be an indicator that there’s more widespread transmission. This is what we call an indicator or sentinel event,” Henry told a news conference.
‘We shouldn’t panic,’ says Dr. Richard Schabas, noting the virus appears to spread slowly and there are ways to defend against it. 0:38
“I expect there’ll be an international investigation to try to understand where the exposure occurred.”
She added that Iran has recently announced five cases of the virus and two deaths.
Henry described the woman’s infection as relatively mild, and said she tested positive for the virus after visiting the hospital with what she thought were symptoms of the flu.
The patient has had contact with others since her return from Iran last week. Close family members are currently in isolation and being monitored by public health officials.
She said health officials are looking into when the patient’s symptoms started to help determine if they need to notify those who travelled with her on the same aircraft. Her diagnosis is considered presumptive until confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.
Henry said the diagnosis shows B.C. has a robust system for identifying people who have the virus. All cases so far have been relatively mild, according to health officials.
The update comes one day after Henry revealed that B.C.’s first confirmed coronavirus patient has fully recovered, and that four others are symptom free.
The fifth, a woman in her 30s who returned from Shanghai, China, is in isolation at her home in B.C.’s Interior.
Henry said over 500 people have been tested for the virus in B.C. and many of those tested positive for the flu. Three cases of the virus have also been confirmed in Ontario.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is currently testing a “very significant number” of patients for the virus, and he expects to provide another update on Friday.
New numbers from China
China, where an outbreak has caused more than 2,200 deaths, has reported another drop in new virus cases to 889 as COVID-19 spreads elsewhere.
China’s latest figures released Friday for the previous 24 hours brought the total number of cases to 75,465. The 118 newly reported deaths raised the total to 2,236.
More than 1,000 cases and 11 deaths have been confirmed outside the mainland.
Iran announced three more infections Thursday, a day after it reported its first two deaths, and South Korea reported its first fatality. Japan said two former passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship had died of the illness.
A second, presumptive case of the coronavirus has been identified in B.C., according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
A Vancouver-area woman in her 50s is believed to have the virus after a preliminary test came back positive Monday night. The result needs to be confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.
“I fully expect [it] will come back as positive,” Henry said at a news conference Tuesday.
Henry says the woman became ill a few days ago and is in contact with the health authority.
“Vancouver Coastal [Health] is working diligently to get all of the details … around this person,” said Henry.
The woman had been in contact with family visitors from Wuhan, China — the epicentre of the outbreak — who are still in her home, in isolation. Henry says health officials are monitoring them.
“If you are somebody who has been in Hubei province [in China] within the last two weeks, it’s really important that you take measures to keep away from others and consider staying at home,” she said.
The coronavirus has infected more than 20,400 people worldwide, and killed 425 according to the World Health Organization. The UN agency has also confirmed 27 cases of the virus spreading person-to-person in countries outside of China.
WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry announces second presumptive case of coronavirus in B.C.
B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says a woman in her 50s was in contact with family who travelled from Wuhan, China, but those relatives minimized contact with others. 1:58
Before being allowed out of isolation, Henry says a patient must test negative for the virus twice, 24 hours apart.
She said the province’s quick detection of this case is proof that its protection and prevention system is working.
Ottawa is preparing to evacuate Canadians from Hubei, and could fly them back as early as Thursday, after which they will be quarantined at an airbase in Trenton, Ont.
Henry said the plane will refuel at Vancouver International Airport and that B.C. is preparing to assist if any evacuees require immediate medical attention.
Anyone with concerns about coronavirus infection should contact their local health authority, Henry said.
B.C.’s first case of coronavirus was confirmed on Jan. 29, also in the Vancouver region.
The patient — a man in his 40s — developed symptoms after flying back from a business trip to Wuhan. Other passengers who were on the flight were not believed to be at risk, according to Henry.
The patient had limited contact with others since arriving back in B.C., she said, and was in isolation at home.
The pair had travelled to Wuhan, China, and recently returned to Toronto.
She has been in self-isolation since they arrived, the statement says.
“We are working alongside Toronto Public Health, who has been in regular contact with the individual during their self-isolation period,” said Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer.
“Given the fact that she has been in self-isolation, the risk to Ontarians remains low.”
Williams is scheduled to provide an update at Queen’s Park at 11:30 a.m. ET.
Public health officials previously said the woman’s husband, a man in his 50s, had been showing mild symptoms on their flight from Guangzhou, China, to Toronto. They’ve since been reaching out to those aboard the China Southern Airlines flight who sat within two metres of the man.
He is now at Sunnybrook Hospital, where he remains in stable condition. The woman is at home and not in hospital.
“As we understand it, her case isn’t as severe as her husband’s and isn’t in need of hospital care,” a provincial health official told CBC News.
Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease specialist and chief of staff at Humber River Hospital in Toronto, said the second presumptive case doesn’t make him worry. Why? Because the disease was spread between two people who had close contact, and there remains no evidence that the disease is spreading beyond that in Ontario.
“This is, unfortunately, something we were prepared for,” he said on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, where he fielded calls from concerned residents in the Greater Toronto Area.
For those who are worried about travelling or being out in public, Gardam said there remains no perfect answer to avoiding illness, but suggested people should avoid anyone who appears sick and always take care to wash their hands.
“Handwashing is something that never goes out of style,” he said.
Listen to the full Metro Morning interview with Dr. Michael Gardam:
Humber River Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Michael Gardam answers your questions on coronavirus in a special call-in on Metro Morning. 18:09
As for face masks, Gardam said the jury is still out on how effective they are when it comes to preventing the spread of disease. Early data on the new form of the virus suggests masks won’t be especially effective, and some say repeatedly touching and adjusting the masks with unwashed hands could do more harm than good.
Masks may not be effective protection
Chinese health commission officials said the number of deaths from the flu-like virus in Hubei province — where the disease is believed to have originated — has climbed from 56 to 76, with four deaths elsewhere in the country. The total number of confirmed cases in China has risen to 2,744.
Canada’s chief public health officer has said she believes there will be more cases “imported into Canada” because of global flight patterns, but she notes there’s little risk of becoming infected here.
Dr. Theresa Tam also said she expects to receive official confirmation Monday from Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Lab that the man’s illness is indeed the new coronavirus.
The diagnosis is “presumptive” until that lab finds the same positive results as the tests conducted in Toronto.
The news of Canada’s first presumptive coronavirus patient came Saturday as authorities around the world grappled with the new type of virus.
Canada has confirmed its first “presumptive” case of the deadly coronavirus in Toronto as the number of infections worldwide surpasses 1,900 cases.
Public health officials announced Saturday afternoon the confirmed case — a man in his 50s who had travelled to Wuhan, China — was found at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
Within a day of arriving, officials say, he became “quite ill,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, associate chief medical officer of health with the provincial Ministry of Health.
Officials say lab results were received Saturday afternoon. The man is in stable condition.
While the case has been confirmed by a test in Toronto, officials said it has yet to complete separate testing by the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases in Winnipeg. The illness can’t be officially confirmed until that testing is completed.
Watch: Health officials say they have the situation ‘well-managed.’
Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa says a team is tracking down those who might have been in contact with the man, whose family members are already in self-isolation. 0:53
What do we know about the case?
Officials said the man took a flight on Jan. 21 from Wuhan to Guangzhou, then from Guangzhou to Toronto, arriving on Jan. 22.
He is believed to have travelled “privately” from the airport to his home. Officials do not believe he took public transit. They have not said what part of the city the man lives in.
Upon arriving, he told family members he felt ill and called 911. Officials say paramedics arrived prepared, taking all necessary precautions “right from first contact” until the hand-off to the hospital’s emergency department on Jan. 23, officials say.
Watch: An associate professor at U of T’s faculty of medicine discusses what comes next.
Dr. Susy Hota, associate professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine, reacts to the news following the confirmation of the first “presumptive” case of the coronavirus in Toronto. 5:22
But in a tweet following Saturday’s news conference, the Toronto Paramedic Union said the first responders who transported the man only learned he was infected with the coronavirus after the fact.
Unfortunately, the Paramedics who transported this patient just found this out from the media and your tweet. Why did <a href=”https://twitter.com/TOPublicHealth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@TOPublicHealth</a> not notify the division? This is completely unacceptable. <a href=”https://t.co/ONxzZvJwnr”>https://t.co/ONxzZvJwnr</a>
Toronto Public Health issued a statement in response saying it does not identify paramedics about patient lab results if they have not been exposed to a public health risk.
“In this situation, the paramedics used full personal protective equipment and no followup was therefore necessary,” said the statement from Dr. Rita Shahin, associate medical officer of health.
When the man arrived at Sunnybrook, hospital officials say he was immediately identified as possibly affected by the virus and placed into a negative pressure room to prevent any contamination, with health-care workers taking protective measures to ensure the safety of staff and other patients.
What’s the likelihood it will spread?
Officials are now trying to determine exactly how much contact the man could have had with others since his return to Canada. Officials say any contact was likely limited to members of his household.
Anyone who lived with the man is currently in “self-isolation,” said Yaffe.
It remains unknown whether anyone travelling on the plane with the individual may have been exposed to the virus. Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, told reporters people without symptoms are not deemed to be contagious. But to what degree the man displayed symptoms in-flight has yet to be determined.
Watch: Health officials discuss whether people on the same flight are at risk.
Health officials say they need to reassess the patient’s risk of being contagious while on board a flight to Toronto. 0:50
The federal government says it has been working with provincial, territorial and international counterparts since China first began reporting cases to make sure Canada is prepared to limit the spread of the infection.
“Canadian hospitals have strong infection control systems and procedures in place to limit the spread of infection and protect health-care workers,” said federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
What does ‘presumptive’ mean?
Health officials referred to the case as “presumptive” because they’re being cautious due to the detailed process of testing and validating the sample, said Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
When testing for a typical virus, technicians with the Public Health Ontario Laboratory would compare the sample with positive and negative specimens in order to verify a positive result, she said.
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is caring for a patient who has a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China.<br><br>The patient is in stable condition and has been admitted to an isolation room. More info: <a href=”https://t.co/BDLgqfjAzw”>https://t.co/BDLgqfjAzw</a>
But because the test for the new coronavirus was developed so quickly based on positive cases overseas, it’s standard practice to have two laboratories verify the sample.
“You never call something definitive until two labs with two different tests have called it,” McGeer said.
“It would be really surprising if it wasn’t confirmed.”
How deadly is the virus?
Dr. David Williams, chief medical officer of health for Ontario, told the news conference that the province’s health system acted as it should.
“As a result, the risk to Ontarians is still low, and things are managed and well-controlled,” Williams said.
It is not clear how lethal the new coronavirus is or even whether it is as dangerous as the ordinary flu, which results in 12,200 hospitalizations and about 3,500 deaths yearly.
While 41 people have died of the virus in China, the World Health Organization has not declared the outbreak to be an international public health emergency.
So far, there have been 56 reported deaths attributed to the virus, all in China, according to China’s state media.
The majority of those infections have been inside China, where the virus has mostly been concentrated in Wuhan city, although there have been confirmed cases reported in Shanghai and Beijing, along with Hong Kong and Macao.
Outside of China, cases have been confirmed in France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, Vietnam, Australia and Malaysia.
In China, transportation has also been shut down in roughly a dozen cities, home to roughly 36 million people. Canadian officials have said such mass quarantines are unlikely, even if the virus spread here.
What do we know about this virus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that most often cause mild-to-moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses including the common cold, but they can also lead to severe diseases. Some coronaviruses spread between animals, some pass between animals and people, and others go from people to people.
Watch: Health officials discuss what precautions people can take.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says people are encouraged to take normal precautions such as washing hands and coughing into their elbow to prevent transmission of any kind. 0:51
This new virus is different from the coronaviruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Its symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
Typically, coronavirus infections manifest as the common cold. Symptoms can include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat and fever. Young babies may contract gastrointestinal disease. Severe cases involve pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.
Those with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to severe disease. That includes the elderly and people with chronic illness, such as diabetes, cancer, heart or lung disease.
Those travelling to China, where the majority of infections have happened, are advised to avoid crowded areas and seek medical attention if they become sick. The federal government advises avoiding farms, live animal markets and contact with animals alive or dead, in addition to usual precautions.
Confirmation of this case comes just one day after Williams said it was only “a matter of where and when” the virus would arrive in Canada.
“Ontario is ready, our systems are ready,” Williams said in a news conference Friday. “We’re light years away of where we were in 2003,” he said, referring to the SARS outbreak that killed 44 people in the Toronto area.
Watch: Health officials say they’re better prepared than they were for SARS.
Experts say Canada is much better prepared for the new coronavirus than it was for SARS in 2003. 0:40
Dr. Peter Donnelly, CEO of Public Health Ontario, said Friday the province has testing that lets medical professionals know within 24 hours whether an illness is this new coronavirus type.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he has “complete confidence” in the city’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, to co-ordinate the city’s response. “Our front-line health-care workers are the best in the world and have procedures in place to keep people safe,” Tory said in a statement.
“Toronto Public Health is continuing to work closely with provincial and federal health colleagues to actively monitor the situation and respond as appropriate.”
The federal government says measures to stem the risk and spread of diseases like the coronavirus are in place.
These include messages on arrival screens at the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver international airports reminding travellers to inform a border services officer if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms, as well as an additional health screening question on electronic kiosks used by international travellers.
If need be, officials say passengers will be referred to local hospitals, with the individual’s travel history available to the hospital they may arrive at.
British Columbia’s minister of health and provincial health officer said there have been no cases in B.C. and the overall risk to the province is still low. “”We are closely watching the situation in Canada and globally and are meeting regularly with our counterparts across the country to make sure we are prepared if cases arise in B.C.,” Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a statement issued Saturday.
Watch: Full statements by health officials on presumptive coronavirus case.
The individual presumed to have coronavirus landed in Toronto on Jan. 22, after travelling to Wuhan, China, and was hospitalized the next day, say health officials. 8:33