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Canada’s first ‘presumptive positive’ case of coronavirus found in Ontario

TORONTO — Ontario’s chief medical officer has confirmed Canada’s first “presumptive positive” case of coronavirus.

In a news conference Saturday, officials said the patient, a man in his 50s, fell ill after travelling to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak. The patient is in stable condition in a negative pressure room at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

While the man tested positive for the virus during initial tests, officials noted that secondary testing at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory is required to confirm the case.

Officials in Ontario have been in contact with Canada’s public health agency and are working in collaboration with Toronto Public Health to “prevent any spread” of the virus. However, officials doubled down on concerns surrounding the presumptive case, noting that “the risk to Ontarians is still low.”

According to officials, the man took a flight within China from Wuhan to Guangzhou. From there he flew to Toronto, arriving on Jan. 22.

He travelled from the airport to his home by private transportation and did not take public transit, according to officials.

Within a day, he began to feel ill and asked a family member to call 911. Paramedics were notified of his travel history and arrived “fully protected” to transport him to hospital.

Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said officials are focused on finding out who the patient may have come into contact with in order to prevent the spread of the virus, noting that those who had close household contact with the patient have been put into self-isolation.

Officials have not specified which flight the patient was on.

The procedure when a person has travelled by plane while infected is to inspect the plane’s manifest and get in contact with individuals who were within three rows of the infected person. However, officials say they are still investigating whether or not the patient was symptomatic while on the flight.

“The evidence to date is that this is not easily transmitted between people,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Oassociate chief medical officer of health. “In terms of transmissions, it’s mostly very close household contacts.”

The patient lives in Toronto with his wife. So far, she is not displaying any symptoms, but has been put in self-isolation and is being monitored.

Officials do not believe the man came into close contact with many other individuals, but are still investigating.

In a press release, De Villa acknowledged public concerns regarding coronavirus, but notes that the province is well-equipped to deal with potential cases.

“I assure you that based on the lessons we learned from SARS now 17 years ago, and given our experiences during the flu pandemic of 2009 and more recently, with Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, we have learned, shared knowledge and built a stronger public health system that is ready to respond, as needed,” read the release.

Deputy Premier and Minister of health, Christine Elliott, also expressed confidence in Toronto and Ontario’s health care systems.

“These protocols and procedures have been in place for some time,” she said. “The patient was detected and immediately put in isolation. Lab tests were conducted, and at the earliest signs of a presumptive positive case, Toronto Public Health launched extensive case and contact management to prevent and control further spread of the infection.

“Ontarians can rest assured that the province’s integrated health care system today is far more prepared to respond to any potential health risks than in the past.”

So far, two coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S. Australia and Malaysia reported their first cases of the virus Saturday, while Japan confirmed a third case. France confirmed three cases Friday, the first in Europe.

China’s National Health Commission confirmed Sunday morning that the death toll from the new virus had climbed to 56, with the number of people infected rising to 1,975.

Officials say that when more information is available regarding who may have been exposed to the Toronto patient, they will share it immediately with the public.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Saturday that the federal government is aware of the case in Toronto.

“The Government of Canada has been working closely with provincial and territorial counterparts, and international partners, since China first reported 2019-nCoV cases to ensure that our country is prepared to limit the spread of 2019-nCoV in Canada,” read a statement released Saturday evening.

“Measures to mitigate the risk of introduction and spread of diseases like the new coronavirus in Canada are in place, including messaging on arrival screens at the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver international airports reminding travellers to inform a Border Services Officer if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms, and an additional health screening question on electronic kiosks used by international travellers.”

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