The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) is providing an update to local clinicians regarding the ongoing 2019-nCoV outbreak. Yesterday afternoon, the World Health Organization declared a global public health emergency over the 2019-nCoV which does raise concerns, but nothing has changed as far as local preparedness. To date there are no cases in Windsor and Essex County. In response to the significant amount of communication and misinformation that is circulating within the community, the WECHU has developed a dedicated landing page on our website, www.wechu.org/coronavirus, which contains credible, reliable, and up-to-date local information for residents and health care providers in Windsor and Essex County (WEC). Please refer to the “For Professionals” section of this page for important information including a link to the “Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov) Guidance for Primary Care Providers in a Community Setting” recently developed by the Ministry of Health.
The risk of exposure to WEC residents, as well as all Canadians, remains low at this time. In the absence of a confirmed case of 2019-nCoV in our community, it’s important to remind patients that they are more likely to contract locally circulating respiratory bacteria or viruses other than 2019-nCoV. Since the outbreak began in December, a number of patients tested (not in WEC) have come back positive for influenza and not 2019-nCoV. The precautions used to protect against 2019-nCoV are the same as those used to protect against common respiratory illnesses, such as influenza. The flu vaccine remains available in our community and remains the best protection against influenza. There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV.
Based on the latest research, this is what we now know about the 2019-nCoV.
- The virus is capable of person-to-person transmission.
- Most people are recovering from the infection and those died are elderly people with other comorbidities.
- A single case of 2019-nCoV can generate between 2.0-3.5 cases, this is slightly less than the number of cases that the influenza virus will generate.
- The average incubation period for 2019-nCoV seems to be approximately 5 days but it could be as long as 11 days. The case definition is still using 14 days as the incubation period.
There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity and other features associated with 2019-nCoV and investigations are ongoing.
At this time, the WECHU is not recommending any additional precautions other than usual practices in response to any respiratory illness, which includes:
- Washing hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are ill.
- Staying home when ill.
- Covering a cough or sneeze with tissue.
- Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are frequently touched.
Health care providers play an important role in supporting the response to suspected cases of 2019-nCoV. It is recommended that clinicians should assess patients prior to notifying public health or referring them to an acute care center for testing. If a patient presents with respiratory symptoms, the patient should be provided a surgical mask, isolated and assessed to see if they meet the case definition for the 2019-nCoV. The case definition at this time is as follows:
For most up to date case definitions and other clinical resources, please visit our website www.wechu.org/coronavirus.
The new coronavirus is considered a disease of public health significance and all suspected or confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV must be reported to the WECHU. If a client meets the above case definition, please contact the WECHU at 519-258-2146, ext. 1420 for guidance and support as testing requires prior approval by the Public Health Ontario (PHO) Laboratory before submission. For after-hours support (outside of 8:30am -4:30pm) please contact 519-973-4510.
While the risks posed by this new coronavirus to WEC residents remain low, the WECHU is actively monitoring the situation worldwide and, in collaboration with all of our health care partners, is working to be fully prepared to respond as needed.
Dr. Wajid Ahmed, MBBS, MAS, MSc, FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health