Travellers to Toronto’s Pearson Airport from specific areas of China, will soon be asked a screening question about a new coronavirus that has caused a pneumonia outbreak in China and already taken six lives.
While currently there are no reports of cases in Canada of this novel coronavirus, and the Public Health Agency of Canada is not aware of any cases involving Canadians overseas, officials answered questions from the media following a brief statement.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, told reporters via conference call on Monday afternoon that travellers will be asked a screening question at electronic immigration kiosks if they have travelled to areas affected by the coronavirus in the last 14 days and they will be reminded to report flu-like symptoms to border services agents.
There will also be messaging on arrival screens about the coronavirus, Tam said.
The upcoming Lunar New Year is a major holiday for Chinese, and there is a concern for increased travel to celebrate with family or go on vacation.
China has confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus, after originally seeing it as an animal-to-human virus which originated at a market in Wuhan, China. Cases have since been reported in South Korea, Japan, Phillipines, Thailand and most recently, Australia and the United States.
Federal public health signs about the coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, will also be displayed at Toronto Pearson, Vancouver International Airport and Montréal-Trudeau International Airport.
The virus belongs in the same family as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 800 people globally and 44 in Canada during a 2002-03 outbreak.
According to the World Health Organization, Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
This novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans and referred to as zoonotic, meaning the virus is transmitted between animals and people.
Symptoms of 2019-nCoV are mainly fever, with a few reports of people having difficulty breathing, and chest x-rays showing signs of pneumonia in both lungs.
The World Health Organization, reports that signs of infection can include respiratory complaints, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, SARS, kidney failure and even death. The only way to confirm 2019-nCoV is with a lab test.
The Government of Canada is actively monitoring the outbreak of the novel coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China, and is in close contact with international partners, including the World Health Organization.
While the risk of the disease spreading to Canada is considered low, the Public Health Agency of Canada is analysing any potential risks to Canadians on a continuous basis.
Canada has no direct flights from Wuhan, and the number of travellers arriving through connecting flights to Wuhan is low. The overall risk of disease spread to Canada is considered low,” the Public Health Agency of Canada has said in a statement on the weekend.
The World Health Organization is expected to make a statement at 10 am Wednesday, January 22, regarding any trade or travel restrictions.