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‘Presumptive’ coronavirus case detected in Toronto

Provincial health officials are reassuring British Columbians as Health officials in Ontario say Canada has confirmed its first presumptive positive case of coronavirus on Saturday.

“To date, there have been no cases of illness caused by the novel coronavirus in British Columbia and the overall risk to B.C. is still considered low,” said B.C.’s Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, in a joint statement.

Dix and Henry said they were closely watching the situation in the east and that the BC Centre for Disease Control has already developed a means of detecting the virus.

“The BC Centre for Disease Control has developed a diagnostic test for this new coronavirus, and they are co-ordinating staff and supplies to ensure they are prepared to quickly and accurately detect potential cases,” they said.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said a man in his 50s who had travelled to Wuhan, China, was taken to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital and is now in stable condition in a negative pressure room.

“We were notified of the lab result today, in the middle of the day,” Yaffe told a news conference in Toronto on Saturday evening.

“The emergency service was aware of his travel history and used full precautions.”

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 will officially be confirmed once it completes that testing.

The news of Canada’s first coronavirus patient comes as authorities around the world grapple with the new type of virus, which originated in China but has since spread to Europe and North America.

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Authorities around the world have confirmed more than 1,200 cases so far, including three in France and two in the United States.

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.

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.

The new virus comes from a large family of coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a common cold. But in late 2002, a coronavirus named severe acute respiratory syndrome erupted in southern China, causing a severe pneumonia that rapidly spread to other countries. SARS infected more than 8,000 people and killed 774, including 44 Canadians. Toronto was hard hit in that outbreak.

The first people infected with coronavirus visited or worked at a seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which has gone into isolation since the outbreak.

Bustling streets, malls and other public spaces have turned eerily quiet, masks are mandatory in public, and some hospitals have run low on medical supplies. Transportation has also been shut down in roughly a dozen Chinese cities, home to roughly 36 million people.

Canadian officials have said such mass quarantines are unlikely, even if the virus spread here.

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.

The federal government has beefed up measures at major airports in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Visitors are now being asked about any travel to Wuhan in the past 14 days, and a positive response would trigger further investigation.

— with files from Harrison Mooney

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