By Kalinowski, Tim on January 29, 2020.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says currently Albertans have more to fear from conventional influenza strains than they do from the new deadly strain of coronavirus, officially called 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which is beginning to circulate around the globe after first being discovered in Wuhan, China, a few weeks back.
“I think at the moment the information we have is leading us to come to the conclusion that the risk to Albertans right now is low,” she told The Herald on Tuesday. “There are certainly a lot of people who are worried about themselves, and even moreso for those people who have friends and family in China. What I can tell people is we are taking measures to pro-actively identify any cases and then prevent further spread. We currently have no cases in Alberta. If the situation were to change, then we have plans in place to respond if we should have any cases.”
Hinshaw said she would recommend the same preventative measures for this new strain of respiratory virus as she would for other strains already circulating in the province.
“We would recommend people take the measures we would always recommend they would take in influenza season which would help them protect themselves against any respiratory virus,” she confirmed. “So things like people washing their hands regularly, staying about two metres away from people who are coughing or sneezing, and if people are ill asking them to stay home. If people are able to follow those measures they can protect themselves against many common respiratory viruses which, right now, are more of a threat to Albertans than the Novel Coronavirus.”
That common advice aside, Hinshaw would recommend those travelling from China in the past two weeks take extra precautions to monitor their health, particularly if they are feeling unwell.
“The best thing they can do is isolate themselves from other people in their household (if feeling ill),” she said. “They might want to consider staying in a bedroom, for example, and then calling Healthlink at 811. Healthlink is able to connect that person with direct advice from our public health officials. They can make arrangements for that person to be tested in their home in most cases.”
Hinshaw stressed those feeling ill should not simply walk into a hospital, but should call Healthlink first.
“The World Health Organization recommendations for infection control measures for this Novel Coronavirus are to use droplet and contact precautions, which means masks, eye-protection, gowns, gloves and those kinds of measures,” she explained. “What would really be required is that a patient would be in a single room, and that health-care providers or anyone in that room is using those appropriate precautions to protect themselves from spread.”
Hinshaw said Alberta Health is closely co-ordinating with Alberta Health Services through local zones to ensure everybody is on the same page should a case of coronavirus be uncovered in Alberta.
“The response requires both large, consistent direction across the province about how we handle any people under investigation, any questions about how to proceed, as well as that local (regional) response,” she said. “With AHS they are co-ordinating through the zones and then back up to the provincial level.”
Hinshaw said the Alberta government was also co-ordinating with federal officials on a national response to Novel Coronavirus, with airport screenings being done in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal on all flights arriving from China and public health agencies across the country in constant communication with one another.
“We are working very closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada and other provinces to make sure we are preparing should we have a case that is travel-related and comes into Alberta,” Hinshaw confirmed. “At the moment the focus of all of our colleagues across the country and our public health teams in Alberta is identifying any potential cases and then isolating them and preventing further spread of the virus.”
“We have no cases in Alberta at this time,” she stressed again.
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