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Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

A new coronavirus is the cause of an outbreak of respiratory infections, now known as COVID-19. The number of cases worldwide is changing quickly. B.C. has confirmed cases of coronavirus; however the risk to Canadians continues to be low. 

Frequently asked questions

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found mostly in animals. In humans, they can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). The new coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2.

The symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, are similar to other respiratory illnesses, including the flu and common cold. They include cough, sneezing, fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing.

While many of the characteristics of COVID-19 are still unknown, mild to severe illness has been reported for confirmed cases. 

Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.

As of February 8, 2020, B.C. has four confirmed cases of COVID-19. The highest number of infections continue to be reported from Hubei Province, China. 

Coronavirus is transmitted via larger liquid droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. The virus can enter through these droplets through the eyes, nose or throat if you are in close contact. The virus is not known to be airborne (e.g. transmitted through the particles floating in the air) and it is not something that comes in through the skin.

It can be spread by touch if a person has used their hands to cover their mouth or nose when they cough. That’s why we recommend you cough or sneeze into your arm and wash your hands regularly. 

Droplet Contact:  Some diseases can be transferred by large infected droplets contacting surfaces of the eye, nose, or mouth. For example, large droplets that may be visible to the naked eye are generated when a person sneezes or coughs. These droplets typically spread only one to two metres and are too large to float in the air (i.e. airborne) and quickly fall to the ground. Influenza and SARS are two examples of diseases capable of being transmitted from droplet contact. Currently, health experts believe that coronavirus can also be transmitted in this way.


Airborne transmission:  This occurs when much smaller evaporated droplets or dust particles containing the microorganism float in the air for long periods of time. Transmission occurs when others breathe the microorganism into their throat or lungs.  Examples of diseases capable of airborne transmission include measles, chickenpox and tuberculosis.  Currently, health experts believe that coronavirus cannot be transmitted through airborne transmission.  

Follow the same advice that public health officials recommend for the cold and flu season: wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, avoid others who are unwell, and stay home when you are sick.


The most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.

Cover your mouth when you cough so you're not exposing other people. If you are sick yourself, stay away from others. Contact your health-care provider ahead of time so you can be safely assessed.

Masks should be used by sick people to prevent transmission to other people. A mask will help keep a person's droplets in. 

It may be less effective to wear a mask in the community when a person is not sick themselves. Masks may give a person a false sense of security and are likely to increase the number of times a person will touch their own face (e.g., to adjust the mask). 

Health-care workers will wear surgical masks, eye protection and gowns in order to protect themselves and other patients. During health-care procedures in which aerosol sprays may be generated (for example, when giving certain inhaled medications), health-care workers should wear specialized masks.

Symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

If you have traveled to the affected area of Hubei Province, China, and develop these symptoms, avoid contact with others and call ahead to a health-care professional. Do the same if you develop symptoms and have been in contact with a confirmed case or a traveller returning from the affected area with these symptoms.

Tell your health-care professional:

  • your symptoms;
  • where you have been travelling or living;
  • if you had direct contact with animals (for example, if you visited a live animal market); and
  • if you had close contact with a sick person, especially if they had a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

Call ahead to the health-care facility you are planning to visit so they can be prepared to take precautions. In an emergency, describe your symptoms, travel history and any sick contacts when you first arrive at the facility so that appropriate precautions can be taken.

Until more is understood about the virus, older people and people with a weakened immune system or underlying medical condition are considered at higher risk of severe disease.

The risk of spread of this virus remains low at this time.  The evidence to date shows that the virus is spread by large droplets which are produced primarily during coughing and sneezing. You would need close and prolonged contact, like what you would expect to occur within a household, to transmit the virus.

We are prepared to detect and respond to prevent the spread of serious infectious diseases, and are confident in our capacity to prevent further spread and transmission of COVID-19.

People arriving in Canada from Hubei Province, China are asked to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days and monitor closely for symptoms of illness. If any symptoms arise, connect with your primary care provider, local public health office or call 8-1-1. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada has implemented measures to detect and contain the infection. These measures include messaging on arrivals screens at international airports reminding travellers to inform a border service officer if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms and are arriving from an affected area, and an additional health screening question at electronic kiosks.

British Columbians should always tell their health care providers about their recent travel if they become ill after returning to Canada.  

The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a Travel Health Notice to avoid all non-essential travel to China and avoid all travel to the province of Hubei, including the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou, due to the imposition of heavy travel restrictions in order to limit the spread of a novel coronavirus.

Go to Government of Canada for latest travel alerts.
The Ministry of Health and BCCDC, working with many partners, have plans and are prepared to respond to new illnesses of public health concern.

We have been actively monitoring the situation with 2019-nCoV over the past weeks, together with national and international groups, to be ready for identifying and caring for those who may have COVID-19 and to prevent its spread.  B.C. developed one of the first tests to confirm COVID-19. 

A Provincial Coordination Committee is in place to respond to COVID-19 in British Columbia. This committee will co-ordinate provincial preparedness and response across our health sector.

It is not necessary to cancel school events, outings or field trips to public locations. 


Students or staff returning from Hubei Province or those who have been in contact with someone who has been infected with COVID-19 should stay home from school for 14 days and monitor for symptoms closely, see advice above. Students required to stay home will have opportunities for distance learning or catch up once the students are cleared to return.  


Students and families considering travel to and from China are encouraged to consult the Novel Coronavirus in China Travel Health Notice on the Government of Canada Travel and Tourism site regularly. Recommendations change as new information becomes available. The Government of Canada has advised the public to avoid non-essential travel to China.

SOURCE: Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) ( )
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