As China struggles to contain the deadly coronavirus, Ontario is stepping up its efforts to identify, contain and treat any potential cases of this virus here.
“While the risks posed by this new coronavirus to Ontarians remain low, the province is actively monitoring and is fully prepared to respond,” says Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “To date, there have been no confirmed cases in Canada.”
The ministry has added novel coronavirus as a designated disease reportable under Ontario’s public health legislation. That means physicians, hospitals and other care facilities must 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. Ontario’s reporting requirements now align with B.C. and Alberta,” the ministry explains.
The coronavirus has captured the attention of infectious disease experts around the world because it bears strong similarities to SARS, the respiratory disease that killed hundreds of people – including 44 Canadians – in 2003.
Ontario’s integrated health system today is far more prepared to respond to any potential health risks than in the past, the ministry assures. “We now have mechanisms in place which have strengthened how health care providers work together and coordinate responses to emerging public health issues, such as this new virus,” it reports. “Significant investments in our public health and infection prevention and control systems have been made, including the creation of Public Health Ontario.”
To date, 41 people have died since the virus was detected in late December, all of them in China. Cases have been reported in the U.S., Australia, Malaysia, Japan and France. Airports in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal – all of which have direct flights from China – are screening passengers as one measure of defence.