Sunday, January 26, 2020

Canadian coronavirus patient showed symptoms on flight back from China, officials say

Canadian coronavirus patient showed symptoms on flight back from China, officials say

Officials are now 'working rapidly' to trace passengers who were in 'close proximity' of the man, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer

Health surveillance officer use temperature scanner to monitor passengers arriving at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020.AP Photo
Jan 25 2020
A Toronto man who is believed to be Canada’s first, and most certainly not last confirmed case of the rogue Wuhan coronavirus was showing symptoms of the virus on his flight back from Wuhan to Canada last week, federal health officials said Sunday.
Officials are now “working rapidly” to trace passengers who were in close proximity of the man, who had recently travelled to Wuhan and who was travelling back to Toronto on China Southern Airlines Flight number CZ311 from Wanzhou last Tuesday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, told a media briefing Sunday morning.
Tam said droplets spread coronaviruses. In plane contact tracing, the focus is a two-metre radius she said. “We’ll be looking at the plane and its seating plan and where that patient was actually seated in order to trace other passengers” that were surrounding him, she said.
“The main focus in on actual fellow travellers” or anyone who may have administered care to the man while on the flight to Toronto, Tam said.
It would not be unexpected that there will be more cases imported into Canada in the near term
Health officials have informed the airlines and staff who may have been serving “that particular zone of the cabin as well,” Tam added. “Any other passengers should remain calm.”While Tam said the risk of “onward spreading,” of the man infecting others, is low, “nevertheless it would not be unexpected that there will be more cases imported into Canada in the near term, given global travel patterns.”
The risk remains low and Canadians “should continue with their lives,” federal health minister Patty Hajdu said.
It appears the man did not report to border-service officers that he was sick when he arrived at Pearson International airport, despite messaging that appears on arrival screens reminding travellers from Wuhan to report if they have flu-like symptoms.
The man is in isolation at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital and his family members are in “self-isolation” as a precaution, Ontario health officials said Saturday.
The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China since reports of mysterious cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City first surfaced on Dec. 31.
Canada’s national microbiology laboratory is working to complete testing and expects to confirm the country’s first case of the Wuhan virus within 24 hours.
“We’re working actively to limit the spread of the virus,” Tam told reporters Sunday, adding that the Toronto case was not unexpected given global travel. Canada’s disease prevention and control systems are designed to quickly detect and contain infectious diseases, she said. “It shows that our systems are working.”
However, based on the latest information, the man had symptoms while on the plane, and returned home by private car when he landed at Pearson on Wednesday.
His family called 9-1-1 on Thursday, the man complaining of fever and dry cough and that he had recently visited Wuhan. Paramedics, who wisely donned protective gear, took him to Sunnybrook, where he was put in isolation in a negative-pressure room.
When asked repeatedly if the man reported symptoms to border-service agents at the Toronto airport, Tam responded, “This patient was not reported to us, no.”
“When he became more ill, when he needed medical support, in fact he followed all the information provided at the airport,” federal health minister Patty Hajdu said, referring to messaging that people should contact their health care providers if they feel ill after travelling to affected areas. The man alerted first responders that he had recently returned from Wuhan. “For me, that is a sign that the information at the border did actually percolate through to the patient and his family,” Hajdu said.
Toronto Public Health officials are contacting close contacts, particularly passengers who had “prolonged contact” with the man, who is in his 50s, and others seated near him, Tam said. “What I would like to emphasize is that for other people on the flight, or in the airport or not in close contact with the patient is that they should not be overly concerned,” Tam said.
“For the rest of the plane, if you don’t get a call from public health authorities it means you were not right next to the two-metre radius of that particular patient,” she said. “You should take the information that you received at the border from the Public Health Agency of Canada as to what you should do if you develop symptoms.”
Hajdu said there is no need for alarm and that Canadians shouldn’t fear contracting the virus “in a casual setting.”
“My advice to Canadians is to take normal precautions to protect their health. People should continue their lives.”
Hadju said that, unlike the Americans, Canada is not currently looking at flying Canadian diplomats, their families or Canadians living in Wuhan back to Canada. “At this point it doesn’t appear that we have the need to charter a plane,” she said

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