A new coronavirus spreading in China that causes respiratory illnesses like pneumonia has been detected in Washington state.
A traveller from China has been diagnosed near Seattle with the Wuhan coronavirus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Tuesday. Local officials have declined to identify the patient, was reported to be “quite ill,” according to a New York Times report.
The news comes as health officials in Canada begin stepping up public awareness and screening at Canadian hospitals and airports, including the Vancouver International Airport.
Messaging will appear on arrivals screens at the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver airports reminding travellers from Wuhan to tell a border service officer if they have flu-like symptoms. A health screening question will also be added to electronic kiosks.
Kamloops Airport manager Ed Ratuski said the local facility has no procedures in place for any coronavirus cases coming through Fulton Field as those are in place at point of entry airports, such as Vancouver International Airport, and don’t apply to Kamloops.
He said regional airports like Kamloops would likely not be asked to conduct any kind of screening of travellers.
Kamloops Airport continues to monitor the situation and is on a BC Centre for Disease Control contact list in case the health authority has any precautionary measures it wants Kamloops or other airports to take, Ratuski said.
No such request has been made at this time and Ratuski said the BC Centre for Disease Control would normally ask the airport to disseminate information on where and how to reach out if travellers experience symptoms, in a scenario such as this.
Anybody with questions should go online to travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories before they travel abroad.
According to Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian, there are no procedures in place at Kamloops Airport to deal with any possible coronavirus cases coming through Fulton Field because there are no infectious disease staff at the airport.
In a response to a query from KTW, Royal Inland Hospital chief of staff Dr. Todd Ring issued this statement:
“Currently, there are no reports of confirmed cases of infection in Canada of the novel coronavirus and we are not aware of any cases involving Canadians overseas.
“All of Royal Inland Hospital’s emergency department staff and infection control practitioners are aware of the novel coronavirus and have protocols for patients who might present with symptoms that could indicate a more serious illness. We stress that the risk to Canadians is considered low, but to facilitate early detection and containment, all of our clinicians will remain alert to the possibility that a patient might present with this illness.
“We are looking for fever and acute respiratory illness, along with recent travel to Wuhan, China, within 14 days prior to symptom onset or was in close contact with someone who was ill and had recently travelled to Wuhan.
“ At this time of year particularly, our staff are alert to patients with viruses, such as influenza, and implement droplet contact precautions for these patients and ask the patient to wear a surgical mask and perform hand hygiene. Patients who may be suspected of having the 2019 novel coronavirus will be cared for in isolation, as are all patients with specific infectious illnesses. Health care providers follow stringent infection control precautions while caring for patients who potentially have a contagious illness.
Identification and containment are the goals for public health officials when it comes to dealing with the new coronavirus, but at this point in the outbreak, there are still more questions than answers about the virus, which causes respiratory illnesses like pneumonia.
“This is primarily a virus of particular interest because it is a novel, new coronavirus and we don’t want it to become established in the human population. So we are very focused on the early identification of cases and trying to contain those,” said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, lead of the influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens team at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
The newly identified coronarvirus originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, and has spread to Beijing and Shanghai. More than 300 people have been infected so far and six have died.