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Health officials track coronavirus in Metro Vancouver, risk remains low

Last Updated Feb 5, 2020 at 11:32 am PST

FILE -A medical worker in a protective suit writes on a tube after collecting a sample for nucleic acid tests from a suspected virus patient at a hotel being used to place people in medical isolation in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. B.C. health officials believe a woman in her 50s in the Vancouver area has contracted the new coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chinatopix via AP

The second case of the novel coronavirus in B.C. was announced Tuesday

Health officials are tracking the potential spread of the virus in B.C.

An infectious disease expert says the risk of the virus spreading remains low

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Another presumptive confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in B.C. has health officials tracking the potential spread of the disease in this province.

On Tuesday, Doctor Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, announced a woman in her 50s in the Metro Vancouver area had tested positive. She had been visiting with people from Wuhan who left made it out before the lockdown. The woman is now in hospital.

Now, medical officials are tasked with tracking down anyone who may have been in contact with carriers of the virus. Infectious disease expert Susy Hota with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine says while the tracking of those people will be underway, the risk of other people being infected remains low.

“So anyone who would be within that close range of about two metres of an individual who’s infected and spend a significant amount of time in that space would be at highest risk for picking it up,” she explains. “There’s no guarantee that they will pick it up, in fact, most people won’t.”

Hota says health authorities will be tracking close-contacts first, then determining how deep to go in their search for more contacts based on the information they glean from those they talk to in the “inner circle.”

“They want to reach out to the close contacts of that individual. Those are the individuals who tend to be household members or caregivers, those who interact very commonly and have close physical contact.”

Each person contacted will be assessed for early symptoms and given information on how to react if symptoms develop. When someone is infected, Hota says there is a process of determining if they should be isolated at home or in a hospital, based on their symptoms.

She notes there isn’t necessarily one right answer on what should be done.

“In the current situation, that we are dealing with this virus, everyone is wanting to put as much as possible into trying to stop this transmission. So, we’ve seen in other jurisdictions they’ve made the decision to quarantine people who are coming off the flights and have monitoring in a different setting outside the home,” she says, adding Canada has followed that suit as well.

There have been four confirmed cases of the virus in Canada so far.

The case on Tuesday has yet to be confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab.