B.C. health officials believe they are in a good position to contain the coronavirus after a seventh person contracted COVID-19 after being in close contact with a woman who had recently visited Iran.
Still, B.C. Medical Health Officer Bonnie Henry said this morning the province is “not out of the woods yet” and travellers are encouraged to follow isolation protocols if they feel sick upon arriving home.
“This is a rapidly-evolving situation. There was a lot of work done over the weekend to find anybody who might be in contact with last two cases,” Dr. Henry told reporters Monday, but she stressed there is no need for anyone to go to hospital to get tested unless they have been contacted by health care officials.
“We are confident we know the people who are at risk,” Dr. Henry said.
Her comments come as the health ministry has sent out an information bulletin to School District 43 stating that students in the Fraser Health region, including the Tri-Cities, may have come in contact with coronavirus from the sixth patient, but all are in isolation and not showing symptoms.
The bulletin reminds parents and caregivers to keep students home from school if they are sick and to use precautions such as hand washing.
The sixth case of coronavirus in B.C. was identified last week after a 30-year-old woman contacted health officials when she experienced symptoms and went into isolation.
Efforts were subsequently made to identify anyone who had been in contact with the woman, including her close contacts and people who travelled on the same plane.
Dr. Henry said health officials were able to quickly identify the seventh case because B.C. now has a test for the coronavirus.
Health Minister Adrian Dix who attended the press conference, thanked the frontline workers, including doctors, nurses and disease-control specialists with the BC Centre for Disease Control, for working to identify anyone who may be at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Still, there is concern that the virus is spreading in countries such as Iran, South Korea and Italy, and Dr. Henry asked all travellers to “monitor yourself carefully and monitor your children,” and to call 811 if they have any symptoms.
While no airport screening is planned here, the hope is that other countries are screening passengers and preventing those with signs of illness from getting on planes.
But there is no need for people without symptoms to show up at health clinics or hospitals for testing.
The hope is the virus will wane once spring arrives and a vaccine created in time for the next flu season, Dr. Henry said.
Health officials' strategies for detecting coronavirus in B.C. are:
• Detect anyone who has the virus through a B.C. test; typically individuals reach out to health officials if they have recently travelled and are symptomatic.
• Find the people they are in close contact with (the disease is spread by breathing in droplets from someone coughing and you have to be relatively close to somebody to inhale those droplets).
• Isolate those in close contact and monitor them for symptoms.
“The recent case was somebody we had identified,” Dr. Henry said.
More than 600 people have been tested.
Meanwhile, the Iranian community is paying attention to the spread of the disease in that country, according to Fred Soofi, who is in contact with the Tri-Cities Iranian community, and some are cancelling plans to travel to Iran there for Nowruz, the Persian New Year.