Canada Told to Prepare for Possible Pandemic Amidst 7th Case in BC

Note: This article is a follow-up to two previous articles (this one and this one) about the presence of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the Vancouver area, as well as recommendations from the Federal Chief Medical Officer about preparing for an “outbreak” or “pandemic”.

Yesterday, Monday February 24, 2020, Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said a 7th case of COVID-19 has been identified in BC [1] and that this patient is a man in his 40s who is a close contact of B.C.’s 6th case, a woman in her 30s who recently returned from Iran [2,3]. Apparently, the man had symptoms prior to the woman being diagnosed. The Globe and Mail reports that the Provincial Health Authority has been working with the Fraser Health Authority to try to identify anyone who may have been in touch with the two latest cases. This would include the fact that Fraser Health Authority sent a letter to all school districts in its region this past Friday, which includes Burnaby, New Westminster, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and the Tri-Cities — warning them that contacts of the woman with coronavirus ”may have attended schools in the region and are currently isolated” [4].

The 6th case (and perhaps the 7th case too, as the woman was reported to have a travelling companion) also flew from Montreal to Vancouver on Valentine’s Day, February 14th [5,6]. On February 23, 2020, the BC Provincial Health Authority (PHSA) had advised Air Canada that it planned to contact all passengers who flew out of Montreal that day and who were seated within three rows of the woman so that they can monitor their health for a 14-day period and report any symptoms to a health professional [5,6].

In a dramatic shift from earlier indications that the risks in Canada are “low”, this morning’s Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported that Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam acknowledged yesterday (Monday, February 24, 2020) that “Canada may no longer be able to contain and limit the virus if it continues to spread around the world” and that she said “governments, businesses and individuals should prepare for an outbreak or pandemic” [7]. Yes, the “pandemic” word has now been uttered.

The Globe and Mail also reported that Dr. Tam said yesterday, ”The window of opportunity for containment — for stopping the global spread of the virus — is closing”, and ”…that we have to prepare across governments, across communities and as families and individuals, in the event of more widespread transmission in our community” [8].

Further thoughts…

In addition to the original COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, a growing outbreak of COVID-19 in Iran and South Korea is of particular concern, especially in the Greater Vancouver area which has thriving Chinese, Iranian and South Koreans communities.

With regards to the possibility of others having arrived from Iran with coronovirus prior to it being identified there, Dr. David Fisman, professor of epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto said in the Globe and Mail report, ”I think it’s highly unlikely that that’s the only individual from a country without [declared] coronavirus disease who has come into Canada [8]”. I think it is likewise reasonable to assume that it is highly unlikely that no one arrived from South Korea before the first cases were identified there, as well.

Practical advice (outside of preparing to have sufficient non-perishable food on hand in case there is a need to self-isolate at home for 14 – 28 days) is to avoid the easiest means of transmission, which is touching someone or something that is contaminated with the virus, and then touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth. Use of alcohol gel is an alternative, when soap and water and a good hand wash for 20 seconds is not possible. Since transmission of COVID-19 can occur from an infected person to others within ~2 meters / 6.5 feet (even if the infected person has no symptoms), avoiding crowded public places such as restaurants, food courts, cashier line-ups and waiting rooms would be prudent. 

With no vaccine against this novel coronavirus or medicine available to treat it, practicing ‘social distancing’ is good advice; which is limiting one’s exposure to places where groups of people gather, decreasing opportunity for the virus to spread. This is where Distance Consultations can help. These have always been very popular with those on the other side of the city and across the country, but with seven local COVID-19 cases, people in the immediate vicinity are glad to have this option especially given me having a decade of experience providing them. You can find out more about Distance Consultations by clicking on the tab above.

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  1. The Globe and Mail, Andrea Woo, Feb. 24, 2020, B.C. identifies seventh case of coronavirus,
  2. Montreal Gazette, Susan Schwartz, February 23, 2020, Passenger from Iran on flight from Montreal to Vancouver tests positive for new coronavirus,
  3. CBC, B.C.’s 6th presumptive COVID-19 case flew from Montreal to Vancouver on Feb. 14,
  4. Global News, Sean Boynton, Passenger on Air Canada flight to Vancouver is not a new case of COVID-19: B.C. officials, Feb 23 2020 2:11 pm, updated 5:18 pm),
  5. Montreal Gazette, Susan Schwartz, February 23, 2020, Passenger from Iran on flight from Montreal to Vancouver tests positive for new coronavirus,
  6. CBC, B.C.’s 6th presumptive COVID-19 case flew from Montreal to Vancouver on Feb. 14,
  7. Ottawa Citizen, Elizabeth Payne, Canadians being told to prepare for a possible novel coronavirus pandemic,
  8. The Globe and Mail, Kelly Grant, February 24, 2020, Canada steps up screening efforts as coronavirus inches toward a pandemic,