Ontario confirms second presumptive coronavirus case in wife of first patient

TORONTO — Public health officials in Ontario are reporting a second presumptive case of the new coronavirus.

They say the wife of the man who became the first case of the illness in Canada has also tested positive for the virus.

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The province says the woman has been in self-isolation since arriving in Toronto with her husband last week.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams said Monday the woman tested positive for the virus at Ontario's public health laboratory.

"We are working alongside Toronto Public Health, who has been in regular contact with the individual during their self-isolation period," Williams said in a statement.

"Given the fact that she has been in self-isolation, the risk to Ontarians remains low."

The province is expected to provide an update on the situation at 11:30 a.m. on Monday.

Public health officials have said the woman's husband, a man in his 50s, had been showing mild symptoms on his flight from Guangzhou, China, to Toronto.

They've since been reaching out to those aboard the China Southern Airlines flight who sat within two metres of the man.

Canada's chief public health officer has said she believes there will be more cases "imported into Canada" because of global flight patterns, but she notes there's little risk of becoming infected here.

Dr. Theresa Tam also said she expects to receive official confirmation Monday from Winnipeg's National Microbiology Lab that the man's illness is indeed the new coronavirus.

The diagnosis is "presumptive" until that lab finds the same positive results as the tests conducted in Toronto.

The news of Canada's first coronavirus patient came Saturday as authorities around the world grappled with the new type of virus, which originated in China but has since spread.

Several countries, including the United States, have said they plan to evacuate diplomats and visitors from Wuhan, the virus's epicentre.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in a statement Sunday that Canada doesn't have a diplomatic presence in Wuhan, but he noted the government is in contact with and providing assistance to Canadians in the area.

China is reporting 2,744 cases and 80 deaths, but it remains to be seen whether the virus is as dangerous as the common flu, which kills thousands every year in Canada alone.

Canadian doctors are urging concerned citizens to take the same sorts of precautions they would to avoid common illnesses, such as frequent hand-washing and coughing into the arm or sleeve rather than the hand.

They also say that wearing surgical masks during everyday life has little use in protecting against coronavirus, despite being effective in hospital settings. Early data on the new form of virus suggests masks won't be especially effective, and some say that repeatedly touching and adjusting the masks with unwashed hands could do more harm than good.

But the fear that would prompt someone to buy such a mask is perhaps heightened by parallels to the 2002 SARS outbreak that originated in China and infected more than 8,000 people, killing 800. There were 44 Canadians killed by that strain of coronavirus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2020.

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