The new coronavirus is a respiratory disease that can cause serious complications and death in humans. Three cases have been confirmed in Ontario, and several dozen cases are currently under investigation.
No new cases have been reported in Ontario, and those currently under investigation stand at 62. The majority of cases under investigation involve persons who have travelled to Hubei and China and those whom they have been in close contact with. Some 104 cases have already been closed. Of all cases under investigation, 16 came out presumptive negative, and 306 have been confirmed to be negative.
Persons coming from mainland China and showing no signs of infection are requested to self-monitor while those who show symptoms must contact the health authorities and self-isolate themselves. Persons who have returned from Wuhan and the Hubei Province are asked to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms such as difficulty breathing, cough, and fever. Quarantine has been mandated for all evacuated persons who are currently lodged at Southern Ontario’s Canadian Forces Base Trenton.
The Ministry of Health and Public Health Ontario are monitoring the situation, offering advice on infection control and management, and conducting lab tests. Guidance for health care and public health workers has also been developed, including guidance on laboratory testing, infection control and management, surveillance, and prevention. Health care workers are offered instructions across a wide variety of topics such as testing turnaround times and methods, specimen handling and requirements, and specimen collection. Updated guidance documents are also available to long term care, community and home care, primary care, paramedics, and acute care settings. The authorities also work in cooperation with hospitals and other health care settings to ensure that they have sufficient medical supplies and personal protective equipment.
In view of the protection measures being implemented, many wonder whether the outbreak can be contained or the world is due for a coronavirus pandemic. Cases of human-to-human transmission have already been confirmed but the extent of transmission is still not fully understood.
According to pharma CEO Julianna Tatelbaum, the new virus is more contagious than flue but results in a lower mortality. With an R naught of 1.4 to 2.5, researchers estimate that each infected person will transmit the virus to 1.4 – 2.5 persons. An outbreak is more likely to be contained if the naught value falls below 1. In the view of Dr. Amesh Adalja, respiratory diseases are more difficult to control, and the new virus may end up circulating around the globe, ultimately becoming endemic.
When it comes to how dangerous the new virus is, men, persons aged 50 and older, and patients with preexisting conditions are more likely to develop serious complications. The risk for death has been found to increase with age. Very few children have been infected so far, and some scientists believe that the reason is the difference in the immunity of adults and children. The adaptive immune system is more developed in adults while in children, the innate immunity is more robust which helps them to recover more easily compared to other age groups. Older patients with preexisting conditions are more likely to develop complications such as secondary infection, acute cardiac injury, RNAaemia, and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Smokers are also at a greater risk of developing complications.
When it comes to workplace settings, crews on cargo and passenger flights are considered low risk. The risk for medical personnel is also low in Canada as practitioners carrying for coronavirus patients wear a gown, protective mask, eye protection, and gloves.
High risk groups include persons who have recently returned from the Hubei Province, those providing care for sick family members, and persons living with an infected partner or other family members. Being in the same room with an infected person but not in close contact is considered low risk.