EVERETTE (NEWS 1130) – The novel coronavirus is inching closer to Canada, with the first case in North America now confirmed in Washington state.
Health officials say the man was hospitalized on Sunday and that the new respiratory virus diagnosis was confirmed on Monday.
“We have had three people assigned to us from CDC that are here, and that is our priority — to determine what it means to be at risk, who those people are, doing the contact investigation all the way from China to his home here in Snohomish County,” Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist for Washington state, said on Tuesday.
The patient is “doing well,” and is “clinically not ill,” officials added.
The novel coronavirus has similar symptoms to the common cold, but can be deadly.
The case in Washington state comes after China confirmed six people have died and close to 300 people have been infected by the virus in that country.
Anxiety continues to grow both in China and abroad as the number of people infected grows, and after fears that the virus can be spread from human to human were confirmed.
Countries in Asia and elsewhere have started to implement additional screening measures in order to catch people carrying to new coronavirus, which is believed to have originated and spread from Whuan in central China.
The measures, which include body temperature checks at some airports, railway stations, and highways, are part of an effort aimed at preventing a repeat of the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak — another coronavirus that started in China and killed close to 800 people.
Screening at major airports in Canada, including Vancouver International and Pearson International, has already begun.
“YVR is implementing messaging on arrivals screens and adding health screening questions to electronic kiosks. Passengers will be reminded to inform a border service officer if they are feeling sick,” read a tweet by Vancouver International Airport.
In the U.S., it was reported that three airports had begun health screening for the coronavirus. People on flights from Wuhan are being screened at John F. Kennedy International in New York, San Francisco International, and Los Angeles International.
Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a travel advisory for central China.
There’s no vaccine for the novel coronavirus, but you can prevent getting it by practicing some common sense. That includes covering your mouth while coughing and washing your hands — a lot.
“Particularly after you have coughed into them or have blown your nose or have handled dirty tissues. You have cough etiquette, coughing into the crook of your arm so that you don’t actually contaminate your hands,” Dr. Todd Hatchette with Dalhousie University explains. “Any sort of common cold virus is spread by what’s called ‘droplets,’ and usually you have two be within two metres in order for it to transmit between people and the best way to prevent that is to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze.”
Of course, it’s also advised to stay away from others if you’re sick.
Hatchette says given past experience with coronaviruses, it’s important to keep a close eye on the situation, and to also be aware of anyone travelling to or from high-risk areas.
“If they get sick, to notify public health so we can stay on top of things,” he adds.
-With files from Marcella Bernardo and The Associated Press
Editor’s note: We have changed the headline and updated this article to correctly refer to the new virus.