Risk of coronavirus to Albertans considered low: Chief Medical Officer

Jan 28 2020, 1:32 pm

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer says that the risk to Albertans when it comes to coronavirus is considered to be low, with zero confirmed or probable cases in the province.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta, provided an update on Alberta’s response to the novel coronavirus in a press conference Tuesday, saying that the province is working to ensure the health systems are prepared.

“While it is normal to be worried about new threats to our health, the risk to Albertans is still considered to be low,” said Hinshaw. “There are no cases of the novel coronavirus in Alberta at this time.”

Hinshaw commented on the two presumptive cases in Ontario, saying that they are travel-related and the individuals in question are being isolated to prevent further transmission.

“Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services are working behind the scenes to ensure that our health system is ready to respond effectively should we need to do so,” said Hinshaw.

“We continue to test for the novel coronavirus in Alberta, for people who may have been exposed to the virus through travel to Hubei province in China or in other settings where transmission is known to be occurring.”

Hinshaw says that several cases have been tested so far, and it is expected more will be tested in the coming days.

“We have taken steps to ensure frontline healthcare workers have information about the virus so they can take recommended actions, and promptly report people who warrant further investigation to public health officials” as part of precautionary measures, says Hinshaw.

“Albertans are still more likely to experience respiratory infection caused by a common virus such as influenza — which is in itself a serious infection — but if anyone has a specific concern about being exposed or specific symptoms related to the novel corona virus, I encourage them to call 8-1-1.”

In terms of travel, Hinshaw says that because Alberta does not have any direct flights from China, the screening measures for travel have been put in place at three airports that have flights coming in from China — Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.

“If someone does have symptoms, and and they have a concerning travel history, they can call 8-1-1 and arrange to have a test taken in their home if they’re not sick enough to require health services to prevent additional spread of any potential virus,” says Hinshaw.

To differentiate between coronavirus and influenza, Hinshaw says it all goes back to potential exposure.

“At the moment all cases outside of China have been linked to travel from China, so right now we are advising people who have travelled in the last 14 days from an area where it is known coronavirus was circulating, that they can call HealthLink and get advice,” said Hinshaw.

“Unfortunately the symptoms really are the same as influenza, so the difference would be to get the test.”

Hinshaw emphasized again that the risk of having coronavirus is very low in Alberta at the moment, even in people who have travelled from China.

“So we are focusing on those areas where it is known circulation is happening within the community.”

“At the moment I want to emphasize that the World Health Organization has determined that so far this is a public health emergency within China, but it has not met the criteria for a public health emergency of international concern to date, and that is certainly going to be reassessed by the World Health Organization,” says Hinshaw.

“But we want to emphasize that we remain ready for eventualities and at the same time, we still believe that the risk to Albertans is very low.”

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