Wife of Canada’s first coronavirus patient tests positive, 19 under investigation

TORONTO (Reuters) – The wife of Canada’s first confirmed patient with the fast-spreading Wuhan coronavirus also has tested positive for it at an Ontario laboratory, and 19 other suspected cases in Canada are under investigation, public health officials said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A traveller wears a mask at Pearson airport arrivals, shortly after Toronto Public Health received notification of Canada’s first presumptive confirmed case of novel coronavirus, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 26, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

Canada’s second patient with the novel coronavirus is in her 50s and currently showing no symptoms, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams said at a news conference. She has been in self-isolation and is being monitored by health officials.

“Given the fact that she has been in self-isolation, the risk to Ontarians remains low,” said Williams in a release earlier in the day.

Her husband had been confirmed to have the virus by a national laboratory in Winnipeg, according to the release. He is currently stable at a hospital in Toronto.

The man had mild symptoms while on a flight to Toronto from Guangzhou, China, Canada’s chief health officer Theresa Tam told reporters on Sunday.

The couple arrived in Toronto on Jan. 22 after visiting Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak. There are no other members of their household, said Toronto medical officer Eileen de Villa.

Williams said the couple were wearing masks on their flight from Guangzhou and had taken their own transportation home from the airport.

“From what we know, Wuhan novel coronavirus transmits through close contact – and there’s no closer contact than a husband and wife,” said Ontario’s health minister Christine Elliott in a tweet.

The new coronavirus has infected more than 2,800 people in China, with 81 dead, and has spread to several countries. There are still many unknowns surrounding the virus, such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.

The Canadian government on Monday advised its citizens to “avoid all travel” to China’s Hubei province, citing “the imposition of heavy travel restrictions in order to limit the spread of novel coronavirus.”

Officials have contacted passengers who were in close contact to the infected couple while on the same flight to Toronto, Williams said. He did not specify how many people were contacted. The passengers were told to follow up with health officials should they develop signs and symptoms of the disease.

The flu-like symptoms include fever, cough and breathing difficulty.

Williams added that some of the 19 suspected cases being investigated by health officials are from Toronto.

To be under investigation, patients have to have relevant symptoms and a history of travel to Wuhan or surrounding areas within 14 days, officials said.

Reporting by Denise Paglinawan in Toronto; Editing by David Gregorio and Bill Berkrot

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