News stories surrounding the recent novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak have been dominating international headlines over the past month. There is no doubt that the 2019-nCoV is a serious illness, but the public response to the virus has prompted panic here in Canada. Although we agree that Canadians should be informed about the risks associated with the virus and the precautions they need to practise facing this new strain, it is important to spread practical information that sticks to the facts.
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that result in a variety of different illnesses. From the common cold to more serious conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The current outbreak is due to a strain called the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) with the first reported case emerging on December 31, 2019.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic; this means that they can be transmitted between animals and people. With that being said, there is currently no evidence that supports a risk of our companion animals, such as cats or dogs, becoming infected with the new strain of the virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, transmission of the current 2019-nCoV is largely through human-to-human contact in close proximity. This happens mainly through respiratory droplets that are released from an infected individual coughing or sneezing, with another individual inhaling the respiratory pathogens. It is still unclear if touching a surface that has come in contact with the 2019-nCoV can transmit the illness.
As of February 8 2020, 8 confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV have been confirmed in Canada.
At the moment, the Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the health risks associated with 2019-nCoV as low in Canada. But as is the case with most viruses and bacteria, there are certain precautions you can take to reduce your risk of getting sick this winter:
If travel to areas currently experiencing cases of 2019-nCoV is necessary for you or your family, it is recommended to exercise caution and avoid contact with live animals when visiting markets. Be aware of handling and consuming raw or undercooked animal products as well. Good food safety practices can help reduce risks for a variety of different illnesses.
The World Health Organization offers a variety of resources, including infographics, outlining facts about the virus. Their Mythbusters page addresses many common concerns that are circulating about the virus.
The Government of Canada website also posts current statistics regarding confirmed cases along with information for those curious about how 2019-nCoV is being monitored here in Canada.