OTTAWA — The first Canadian patient diagnosed with a novel form of coronavirus began showing signs of illness on the plane that brought him back from the disease’s epicentre., Canada’s Chief Public Health officer said Sunday as she stressed the risk of future infection is low.
Dr. Theresa Tam said the man in his 50’s, currently in stable condition in a Toronto hospital, showed mild symptoms on the flight that brought him back to the country from China earlier this week.
Tam said authorities are now working to help track some of his fellow passengers, but said the case demonstrates that the country’s public health protocols are working.
“The patient has been managed with all appropriate infection and prevention control protocols, so the risk of onward spread in Canada is low,” Tam said at a morning news conference. “Nevertheless it would not be unexpected that there will be more cases imported into Canada in the near-term given global travel patterns.”
Tam said the Ontario patient did not report his flu-like symptoms upon first landing in Toronto, but did share his recent stay in Wuhan with first responders when he sought medical help the next day. The man remains in hospital, where Ontario health authorities said he’s being held in a negative-pressure room used to contain airborne illnesses.
Despite her concession that future Canadian cases are expected, Tam said close, prolonged human-to-human contact is usually necessary for the disease to spread.
The news of Canada’s first coronavirus patient comes as authorities around the world grapple with the new type of virus, which originated in China but has since spread to Europe and North America.
There are more than 1,975 cases so far, including three in France and two in the United States.
While 56 people have died of the virus in China — most of the deaths have been older patients — the World Health Organization has not declared the outbreak an international public health emergency.