While the risk of the new coronavirus remains low for our region, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is putting in place measures to protect residents should the virus appear.
“The virus has not been identified in Canada, but we know that diseases don’t respect borders and can spread,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. “Based on our previous experience with SARS, we know we have to be ready if and when it appears, and that means working with both the province and our health care partners to ensure we have a coordinated response.”
The health unit is actively working within its infectious diseases emergency response plan, provincial screening recommendations are being provided to health care facilities, and the disease is now reportable to public health, meaning that public health can track and investigate cases of the disease and close contacts.
The coronavirus is a new respiratory virus with pneumonia-like symptoms that emerged in Wuhan City, China, late last year. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as SARS. Although this new strain of coronavirus probably originated in animals, person-to-person spread may now be occurring.
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others just like influenza or a cold by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, or touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Symptoms are usually mild to moderate and can include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, and a general feeling of being unwell.
If you have a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness (cough and feeling unwell) AND have traveled from Wuhan City, China in the 14 days before your symptoms started, or have been in close contact with a person who may have this infection, you should be assessed by a health care provider. If at all possible, make sure to call ahead to let them know you’re coming so that infection control measures can be put in place.
You can protect yourself by washing your hands often with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if your hands are not visibly dirty. You can help to reduce the spread of respiratory infections such as coronavirus by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing and by staying home when you are sick.
For more, see www.smdhu.org or call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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