The first “presumptive” case of coronavirus in Canada has been identified at Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said at a hastily organized press conference at Queen’s Park on Saturday.
A 50-year-old man who returned from a trip to Wuhan, China, on Jan. 22 was admitted to Sunnybrook the next day with a respiratory infection. Tests came back positive for coronavirus on Saturday afternoon and the man is now being treated in isolation in a “negative pressure” room at the hospital.
Emergency and medical workers were aware of the patient’s travel history and took all precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, said Dr. David Williams, the chief medical officer. There is little danger to the public, he said.
The province and Toronto Public Health are collaborating using protocols developed after the SARS outbreak more than a decade ago. “The system is working,” Williams said.
Toronto Public Health is investigating every place the patient may have visited and any people he came in contact with, said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health.
“We have somebody who’s had very little external contact,” she said.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, assured the public that the coronavirus is not easily spread between people and that the members of the man’s household have been identified and are being monitored for signs of infection.
The patient flew from Wuhan to Guangzhou, and then to Toronto. Public officials are currently working to identify the passengers who sat within three rows of him.
Health Minister Christine Elliott urged the public to continue taking normal precautions to avoid infection, including hand washing and coughing into one’s sleeve.
The public is being asked to visit a dedicated website at ontario.ca/coronavirus for updates.
The outbreak of coronavirus that started in Wuhan, in central China, has infected more than 1,200 people and killed 41.
Australia and Malaysia reported their first cases Saturday — four each —and Japan its third. France confirmed three cases Friday, the first in Europe, and the U.S. identified its second, a woman in Chicago who had returned from China.
With files from Star wire services
More to come