TORONTO — Health officials around the world are concerned about a new virus that has killed nine in central China and infected 450 more.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, according to the WHO.
In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
On Tuesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first U.S. case in Washington State.
According to CDC guidelines, common coronaviruses can cause mild to moderate illnesses like the common cold, but can lead to infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis in people with a weakened immune system.
The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak 17 years ago caused more severe symptoms often including fever, chills and body aches which usually progressed to pneumonia.
SARS killed more than 900 people globally, including 44 in Canada, but no human cases have been reported since 2004.
There are no reported cases of the new coronavirus in Canada or cases involving Canadians overseas, the Public Health Agency of Canada said.
Ontario’s chief medical officer Dr. David Williams told The Canadian Press researchers have already identified the new virus and a method to test for it is already in use, which wasn’t the case for the initial stages of the SARS outbreak.
He added that front-line medical staff are already asking anyone with flu-like symptoms about their travel history to better diagnose and track the new virus.
WHO recommendations to prevent the spread of infection include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
It also advises against close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
Chinese health officials first reported the new outbreak on December 31, citing a flush of pneumonia-like cases connected to a seafood market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people.
This new strain was initially transmitted from an animal to a person, the WHO explained.
The virus can now be transmitted between humans and could mutate, officials have said.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, added that the risk of Canadians contracting the novel coronavirus remains low.
“In addition to Canada’s standard measures to prevent the introduction into and spread of communicable diseases in Canada, we are implementing additional measures over the coming week,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement.
“These include 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 to be added to electronic kiosks.”
— With files from The Canadian Press
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