An employee works to prevent a new coronavirus at Suseo Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. China broadened its unprecedented, open-ended lockdowns to encompass around 25 million people Friday to try to contain a deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds, though the measures’ potential for success is uncertain. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

An employee works to prevent a new coronavirus at Suseo Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. China broadened its unprecedented, open-ended lockdowns to encompass around 25 million people Friday to try to contain a deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds, though the measures’ potential for success is uncertain. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Feds roll out education, call for self-reporting to prevent coronavirus outbreak

Some countries such as the Philippines have installed thermal scanners in their airports

The Canadian government is rolling out information rather than surgical masks and thermal scanners to try to keep the country safe from a virus that has already killed more than two dozen people in China and left hundreds more sick.

The World Health Organization on Thursday chose not to declare a global health emergency because of the disease even as China quarantined more territory around the city at the heart of the outbreak, Wuhan, to prevent its spread.

The disease is caused by a coronavirus, part of a family of germs that can cause respiratory illness in humans, and so called because they look like crowns under microscopes. Sometimes the effects are very mild; sometimes, in some people, they can be lethal. The virus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 was a coronavirus.

Even as Chinese officials were scrambling to contain this outbreak and five people were being monitored for the coronavirus in Quebec, Canada’s chief medical officer was playing down the chances of an outbreak here.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan lab joins global effort to develop coronavirus vaccine

“While we are aware of incidents under investigation, we have no reports of any confirmed cases of this new coronavirus in Canada,” Dr. Theresa Tam said during a technical briefing with reporters. “The risk of an outbreak in Canada remains low.”

Some countries such as the Philippines have installed thermal scanners in their airports to detect potential carriers of the disease when they arrive from China as those infected have displayed flu-like symptoms such as fevers. Canada has no plans to follow suit, Tam said.

“In our experience during SARS, we scanned millions of people and didn’t pick up a single case,” she said. “What we know is if you get infected, there could be many days between being infected and being symptomatic or having a fever.”

There is no plan to test every single person flying from China or even Wuhan for the same reason, she said, noting it can take up to two weeks for a person who has been infected to start displaying symptoms. It’s not believed people are infectious before they become symptomatic.

The federal government is instead focused on having international travellers flying into Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver who are experiencing flu-like symptoms self-report to border officers, Tam said.

Those arriving from China, especially Wuhan, are also being given information about what to do if they start to feel sick.

“At the border, the most critical opportunity is to educate the travelling public so they know what to do when they actually have symptoms.”

As for prevention, Tam rejected the idea of healthy people wearing surgical masks to keep from getting infected. While she said masks are useful for those who already have a disease, they can make healthy people sick in other ways.

“Just wearing masks when you’re well is not an effective measure, and sometimes it can actually present some risk as you’re putting your fingers up and down your face, removing your mask, putting them next to your eyes, that sort of thing,” she said.

“So there’s no recommendation to wear a mask when you’re going about your regular daily activities.”

Speaking earlier in the day, the head of Quebec’s public health authority said five people in that province were under surveillance for possible exposure.

The five, from the Montreal and Quebec City areas, had travelled to China “and have a history that could be compatible with the fact they could have been exposed,” Dr. Horacio Arruda said.

At least 26 people have died in China and more than 800 people have been infected, with cases popping up in other countries as well.

For comparison, annual outbreaks of seasonal influenza typically sicken three million to five million people and kill 290,000 to 350,000 around the globe, according to the World Health Organization.

“Obviously, we take very seriously this issue of the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.

“Our health minister is engaged with her partners at the provincial level and we’re working with international partners as well to ensure that we have the best response possible.”

The government is ”of course looking at any extra measures that need to be taken to keep Canadians safe and to prevent the spread of this virus,” Trudeau added.

Anyone suspected of having the disease will be tested for a variety of common ailments such as the flu, Tam said. While provincial authorities can screen for non-coronavirus diseases, full tests will be conducted at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

One of the difficulties is that the coronavirus’s symptoms are extremely similar to those of the common flu, Tam said, including fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.

“Which is why in the middle of an influenza season and other respiratory viruses, it can look like any of those. And if a traveller from Wuhan has respiratory symptoms or a fever, they will get tested for all the usual suspects in addition to, of course, then being tested for the novel virus.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusHealth

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

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

Kyla Gibson with her boyfriend Gavin Hardy. (Photo used with permission)
Sylvan Lake couple lose ‘fur babies’ to house fire

‘They were our world and nothing will ever replace them,’ Kyla Gibson said of her three pets

File Photo
Sylvan Lake challenging locals to Lap the Lake

Locals are challenged to walk 37 km in 30 days to “lap the lake” for charity

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 456 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington

A memorial for the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. Public opposition to the Alberta government’s plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains appears to be growing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File
Alberta cancels coal leases, pauses future sales, as opposition increases

New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt welcomed the suspension

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File)
First Nations seek to intervene in court challenge of coal policy removal

Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish First Nations are among those looking to intervene

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

Most Read