A second presumptive case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Ontario, according to the province’s top doctor.
In a statement issued early Monday, Dr. David Williams said the individual is the wife of a man believed to be Ontario’s first presumptive case of the virus.
The pair had travelled to Wuhan, China, and recently returned to Toronto.
She has been in self-isolation since they arrived, the statement says.
“We are working alongside Toronto Public Health, who has been in regular contact with the individual during their self-isolation period,” said Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer.
“Given the fact that she has been in self-isolation, the risk to Ontarians remains low.”
Williams is scheduled to provide an update at Queen’s Park at 11:30 a.m. ET.
Public health officials previously said the woman’s husband, a man in his 50s, had been showing mild symptoms on their 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.
He is now at Sunnybrook Hospital, where he remains in stable condition. The woman is at home and not in hospital.
“As we understand it, her case isn’t as severe as her husband’s and isn’t in need of hospital care,” a provincial health official told CBC News.
Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease specialist and chief of staff at Humber River Hospital in Toronto, said the second presumptive case doesn’t make him worry. Why? Because the disease was spread between two people who had close contact, and there remains no evidence that the disease is spreading beyond that in Ontario.
“This is, unfortunately, something we were prepared for,” he said on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, where he fielded calls from concerned residents in the Greater Toronto Area.
For those who are worried about travelling or being out in public, Gardam said there remains no perfect answer to avoiding illness, but suggested people should avoid anyone who appears sick and always take care to wash their hands.
“Handwashing is something that never goes out of style,” he said.
As for face masks, Gardam said the jury is still out on how effective they are when it comes to preventing the spread of disease. Early data on the new form of the virus suggests masks won’t be especially effective, and some say repeatedly touching and adjusting the masks with unwashed hands could do more harm than good.
Masks may not be effective protection
Chinese health commission officials said the number of deaths from the flu-like virus in Hubei province — where the disease is believed to have originated — has climbed from 56 to 76, with four deaths elsewhere in the country. The total number of confirmed cases in China has risen to 2,744.
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 presumptive coronavirus patient came Saturday as authorities around the world grappled with the new type of virus.