Officials reach most people in contact with Toronto couple with coronovirus

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TORONTO — Health authorities say they have communicated with most of the people who may have had close contact with a Toronto couple who contracted the new deadly strain of coronavirus in China.

Toronto’s medical officer of health said the ability to reach the relevant people was a sign the health-protection system was working.

“We have reached out and heard back from the vast majority of these individuals,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said in a statement. “This is very positive news given the short timeline.”

The man and his wife — both in their mid-50s — have become the first two cases in Canada of the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 100 people in China and sickened thousands of others. The couple had recently travelled to Wuhan in China, the epicentre of the outbreak that is spreading to other countries.

De Villa said the two confirmed cases in Toronto were not surprising given the “mobile population” that moves between Canada and China.

Health staff have been working to reach out to close contacts of those with the illness to warn them of their possible exposure and to make them aware of symptoms and treatment options. It also affords the opportunity for them to ask questions, de Villa said.

“This is part of our routine work in public health to protect the health of our residents.”

Symptoms of the illness, according to Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, may take about two weeks to manifest and are similar to those of the common flu. They include coughing, a fever and a general feeling of malaise. Some people may have difficulty breathing.

Chinese authorities have locked down cities with millions of people in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, but Canadian authorities have stressed repeatedly that the overall community risk is low.

Health officials in British Columbia said Tuesday a man in his 40s is presumed to have coronavirus and is doing well as he recovers at home.

Medical professionals say best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to the virus, and to take simple measures such as frequent hand-washing, covering coughs or sneezes, and staying home if ill.

They have also stressed the need to consult reliable, credible sources of information on the virus such as health agency websites such as

De Villa also said authorities have set up a hotline for people who travelled on China Southern Airlines, Flight CZ311, arriving in Toronto on January 22 from Guangzhou. People on this flight can call Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with any questions.

Toronto residents can also contact the information line if they have questions.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


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