A man wears a masks as a precaution due to the coronavirus outbreak as people arrive from the International terminal at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Saturday, January 25, 2020. Canadian health officials announced a first presumed case in Ontario after the illness has sickened more than 1,200 people and killed at least 41 in China, the epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Officials in Toronto are interviewing all those who had contact with the man diagnosed with Canada’s first case of the new coronavirus to ensure none of them were infected.

Authorities announced yesterday that they had detected the respiratory illness in a man who recently travelled to Toronto from Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the virus.

He’s being quarantined at Sunnybrook Hospital, and his family members are in “self isolation” as a precaution to keep the disease from spreading.

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China, but it remains to be seen whether it’s as dangerous as the common flu, which kills 3,500 people every year in Canada alone.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, are set to hold a news conference this morning to provide an update on the situation.

Meanwhile, Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, believes the risk of contracting the virus in the province remains low.

He said the strategy of educating the public — championed by the federal government — appears to have worked, at least in the case of the first patient.

“The individual, knowing his responsibility, when feeling unwell, even without having really severe symptoms, was concerned enough and informed prompt enough,” Williams told a news conference on Saturday evening. “That just tells you that people have knowledge of it, they want to take proper precautions to protect their health and protect their family members and others.”

READ MORE: Here’s what Canada is doing to stop the coronavirus from getting in

Tam told reporters on Thursday that rather than screening every single passenger coming to Canada from China, the federal government was instead providing travellers with information about what to do should they start to feel sick.

The new virus comes from a large family of coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a common cold.

But in late 2002, a coronavirus called 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 nearly 800, including 44 Canadians. Toronto was hard hit in that outbreak.

A decade later, another coronavirus dubbed Middle East respiratory syndrome began sickening people in Saudi Arabia. MERS is still prevalent, causing small numbers of infections each year. The World Health Organization has counted nearly 2,500 cases in the Middle East and beyond, and more than 850 deaths.

READ MORE: Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto, officials say

SARS and MERS came from animals, and this newest virus may have as well. The first people infected visited or worked at a seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which has been placed under quarantine since the outbreak.

Canadian authorities have said such a quarantine won’t happen here, even if there is an outbreak.

The federal government has beefed up measures at major airports in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, asking travellers whether they had been to Wuhan in the past 14 days, with a positive response triggering further investigation.

Everyone is also being urged to practice good hygiene that helps prevent the transmission of all viruses — washing hands thoroughly, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home if you’re sick.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Signs at a new COVID-19 testing and collection centre at 14577 66th Ave. in Surrey. It was relocated from an urgent primary care centre near Surrey Memorial Hospital. This new centre allows for up to 800 tests per day, which is 550 more than the previous centre, according to Fraser Health. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
More than 200 new COVID-19 cases linked to Fraser Health region: Dr. Henry

Provincial health officer appeals to people to keep gatherings small

Reni Masi file photo
Former Surrey school trustee, Delta MLA dies at age 87

Reni Masi served as Liberal MLA for nine years, then as a Surrey school trustee for another nine

A driver pulls up to the new COVID-19 testing and collection centre at 14577 66th Ave. in Surrey. It was relocated from an urgent primary care centre near Surrey Memorial Hospital. This new centre allows for up to 800 tests per day, which is 550 more than the previous centre, according to Fraser Health. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Weddings, funerals have ‘potential to become a super-spreader’ event: Fraser Health

As of Oct. 21, health authority accounted for 70% of total provincial cases

The White Birch proposal for a six-storey rental-only building for 1485 Fir St. (at the corner of Fir Street and Russell Avenue) will proceed to a public hearing on Nov. 23, following a split vote at White Rock council. Contributed rendering
White Rock 80-unit rental-only project goes to public hearing

Six-storey, mid-rise building planned to boost affordable housing stock

Actor Ryan Reynolds surprised a Shuswap family with a special birthday message to their son who was worried he’d be alone on his 9th birthday on Nov. 24. (Tiffanie Trudell/Facebook)
Ryan Reynolds text almost gives away Shuswap boy’s birthday surprise

Deadpool actor helps remind eight-year-old Canoe resident he’s not alone

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce that B.C. Hydro is proceeding with construction of the Site C dam, Dec. 11, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Site C actions, costs won’t be known until after B.C. election, Horgan says

Peace River diverted for construction of reinforced dam base

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

One of the squirrels who ended up having their tails amputated after getting them stuck together with tree sap. (Facebook/Wild ARC)
Squirrels recovering from tail amputation after sap situation near Victoria

BC SPCA Wild ARC says squirrels will be released back into wild, fifth sibling was euthanized

Most Read