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Medical officials working to protect communities from coronavirus

January 30, 2020   ·   0 Comments


A 53-year-old man travelling from Wuhan, China, presented mild symptoms of the coronavirus this past Saturday in Toronto. The man was ushered to the hospital only a day after returning to Toronto and remains at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. 

The virus was first discovered in late December when the World Health Organization (WHO) was alerted to a new virus that had affected several pneumonia cases in Wuhan City. On Jan 7, Chinese officials confirmed that the virus was indeed a new contagion which is a part of the common cold family such as  SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). 

The coronavirus is described by WHO as having been transmitted from animals to humans and affecting humans by respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, and shortness of breath and in more severe cases pneumonia, kidney failure and in some cases death. 

Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, released a public statement on Jan. 22 to inform Ontarians of the precautions and steps medical officials are taking in regards to this new virus.

“I want Ontarians to know that their health and wellbeing is my top concern. While the risks posed by this new coronavirus to Ontarians remains low, the province is actively monitoring and is fully prepared to respond. …

“Today, to strengthen the ministry’s ability to monitor any coronavirus cases, our government is adding novel coronavirus as a designated disease reportable under Ontario’s public health legislation. Now, physicians, hospitals and other care facilities will be required to report a suspected or confirmed case of the new coronavirus to their local medical officer of health. The local public health unit can then quickly and effectively take all necessary measures to investigate, complete lab tests, and do case and contact management to prevent and control further spread of the infection.”

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health is preparing precautions and working with local health care partners and hospitals to protect residents and communities from the virus.

“Public Health is working closely with the Ministry of Health, local hospitals and health care providers to ensure residents are protected even if the risk is low,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health and CEO of the local public health unit.

“Our mandate is to protect the health and safety of our communities and we will continue to be vigilant about this situation while keeping your local health care provider and hospital informed with the latest information.”

Due to the unknown factors regarding this new virus, several area medical facilities and hospitals are keeping a wide ear for new information and updates throughout the days and weeks. 

Sandy Critchley, Director of Quality Improvement, Planning and Performance at Headwaters Health Care Centre, explains that Headwaters is confident concerning the preventive measures taken and is constantly keeping in contact with medical officials and the media for more ongoing information.

“As part of our standard practice, patients come to triage and are asked a series of screening questions which includes questions about their travel history. We have recently added a specific question to the travel history screening which asks people whether they have travelled to Wuhan City, China in the last 14 days. 

“Anyone who has a cough or respiratory symptoms is asked to wear a surgical mask. Masks are available at all entrances, at triage and throughout the hospital.

“If someone has been identified to have travelled in the last 14 days from Wuhan China, our staff would wear an N95 Mask (mask with a respirator) as a precaution and the patient would be placed in an airborne isolation room in our emergency department for a physician assessment and tests.  

“Headwaters has a microbiology and laboratory where standard tests are sent for analysis. If nCoV was suspected, those lab samples would be sent to the Toronto Public Health Laboratory for analysis.”

She said patients would be kept in the hospital until they are well enough to return home. This timeframe would vary depending on the patient and their specific condition.

Test samples would be sent to the Toronto Public Health Laboratory for analysis.

She said Headwaters “closely monitors information available on emerging pathogens. We will continue to monitor the information and trends in the coming days and weeks and as new information becomes available we will update our protocols. We remain confident in the infection prevention and control measures put into place in airports to screen those travelling to affected areas,” said Ms. Critchley. 

“We are appreciative of the information available through media outlets that encourage those with travel histories to affected areas and experiencing symptoms to call ahead to alert providers and allow them to prepare for your arrival.  We believe that the lunar new year travel activity could provide an opportunity for this virus to spread to additional hosts, but risk of the virus presenting locally is currently relatively low.”

Public Health says that anyone or anyone they know who has recently travelled and returned from Wuhan City and has symptoms such as, respiratory symptoms, fever and/or cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties to immediately see physician. They also highly suggest international travelers should avoid close contact with people who are sick, wash their hands, avoid farms or wild animals and cover mouth and nose  to help stop the spread of infection. 

“We suggest that people take reasonable steps to protect themselves and their loves ones from all viruses by washing their hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. These practices help protect the spread of the flu and other viruses,” said Ms. Critchley.



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