Today, Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health at Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, posted a letter to all members of our community regarding 2019-nCoV.
February 7, 2020
To all Members of Hastings and Prince Edward Communities,
Over the past several weeks, many of us have been following the emergence the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). With the recent arrival of Canadians from the Hubei Province of China at CFB Trenton, our community has a heightened awareness of the virus. 2019-nCoV, which first emerged in China, was identified just over a month ago. Since the virus is so new, we are finding out more about it every day. Scientists and medical professionals around the world are working very hard to learn more about the virus, in order to protect the health and well-being of all people.
As additional evidence continues to emerge, I understand that many community members are concerned about potential risk of the virus. Conflicting information about the dangers of 2019-nCoV, how it can be spread, and what individuals should do to protect themselves, is causing confusion, fear, and discrimination in many communities, including our own. As your local Medical Officer of Health, I feel it is my duty to provide up to date and accurate information to our local citizens about emerging public health issues such as the 2019-nCoV. While we are learning more about the virus every day, I will share with you what we know right now.
Right now, it appears that an individual must be in very close contact with someone who has the virus in order to be infected. Evidence also suggests that the chance of catching the virus from an individual with no symptoms is very low. It is also important to remember that the majority of individuals who contract the virus recover with no complications, and that there has been very limited spread of the virus within Canada.
With respect to Canadians from Hubei Province arriving in our community, I would like to report that extensive screening and monitoring processes are in place throughout the 14-day isolation period. This will ensure any signs and symptoms are promptly identified, and appropriate measures are put in place. I understand there may be concerns about the potential of transmission by individuals who are providing care to any travellers from Hubei Province, or providing care to any potential cases of 2019-nCoV. I would like to reassure the public that health care professionals providing care or interacting with travellers or patients are exercising caution to prevent the potential spread of illness.
Since the virus is so new, extensive precautionary measures have been put in place to protect the health of Canadians. For example, recent policy changes recommend that any returning travellers from Hubei, or close contacts of a confirmed case of 2019-nCoV, self-isolate for 14 days, as a precautionary effort to ensure these individuals have had minimal contact with others if symptoms develop. These procedures have been put in place to ensure the public health system continues to work as it should. If these measures are followed, cases of the virus will be promptly identified, to allow for appropriate care. Locally, health care providers in Hastings Prince Edward Counties have come together to develop comprehensive plans to identify, respond to, and treat any cases of 2019-nCoV, should they arise in our community.
If you are worried about the local risk of 2019-nCoV, I understand why you are concerned. But please be reassured that the risk to our community is very low at this time. Taking regular precautions such as washing your hands, covering your cough/sneeze, trying not to touch your face, and staying home if you are sick, are the best things you can do to protect yourself from all infectious illnesses, including 2019-nCoV.
Dr. Piotr Oglaza, MD, CPHI(C), CCFP, MPH, FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health and CEO
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health