Confronting the coronavirus

February 6, 2020
Thousands of people in more than 25 countries have been infected with the coronavirus. Hundreds of people have died. Unfortunately, these numbers increase every day. In British Columbia, there are four confirmed cases, and according to the BC Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr Bonnie Henry, all are quarantined and all are doing well. The BC Centre For Disease Control (BCCDC) says the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus in British Columbia remains low.
According to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), illnesses associated with the new coronavirus, named 2019-nCOV, are similar to a number of respiratory illnesses and include fever, dry cough, sore throat, and headache. Most cases are considered mild to moderate with a subset experiencing more severe illness with shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. 
The ​BCCDC’s team of experts has developed a diagnostic test for this new coronavirus and is coordinating staff and supplies to ensure potential cases can be detected quickly and accurately.
BC’s Public Health Officer is responsible for monitoring and assessing the health status of the population, and has directed health-care workers to be vigilant and to take a travel history for anyone reporting respiratory symptoms.

For physicians

CoronavirusBC physicians are being asked to check in with patients who present at their office with respiratory illness about any recent travel. To facilitate early detection and containment, clinicians should notify their local medical health officer, infection control practitioner, and/or medical microbiologist as soon as possible about patients presenting with: 
  • Fever and acute respiratory illness, with or without pneumonia 
  • Recent travel to Hubei Province (includes Wuhan City), China within 14 days prior to symptom onset 
  • Another potential relevant exposure such a close contact with someone who was ill and had recently travelled to Hubei Province (includes Wuhan City), China.
BCCDC is providing regular updates and information on the situation and detection and containment measures to health care providers including medical health officers, infectious disease specialists, medical microbiologists, emergency department physicians, public health nurses, infection control practitioners, airport authorities and others. 

For the public

It is not necessary for British Columbians to take special precautions beyond the usual measures recommended to prevent other common respiratory viruses during the winter. 
Regular handwashing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow sleeve, disposing of tissues appropriately and avoiding contact with sick people are important ways to prevent the spread of respiratory illness generally.
Anyone who is concerned they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus should contact their primary-care provider, local public health office or call 811.