The first presumptive positive case of the coronavirus has been confirmed in Toronto, but how much of a threat is the new virus to Canadians?
The World Health Organization stopped short of calling it a global health emergency last week, while officials here have said Canadians are at low risk of contracting the illness.
Nevertheless, experts stress the need to be vigilant and prepared for signs of infection. Here are key things to know:
WHAT IS IT?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that most often cause mild-to-moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses including the common cold, but they can also lead to severe diseases. Some coronaviruses spread between animals, some pass between animals and people, and others go from people to people.
This new virus is different from the coronaviruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
WHAT ARE COMMON SYMPTOMS?
This new virus has non-specific symptoms including fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
Typically, coronavirus infections manifest as the common cold. Symptoms can include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat and fever. Young babies may contract gastrointestinal disease.
Severe cases involve pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUSPECT INFECTION?
Consult your health care provider as soon as possible if you are worried about symptoms or have travelled to a region where severe coronaviruses are known to occur.
If you have mild cold-like symptoms, health officials encourage you to stay home while sick and avoid close contact to help protect others. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and be sure to throw used tissues in the trash and wash your hands. Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
— Sources: Health Canada, Public Health Ontario, World Health Organization
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2020.
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