BY DR. JIANG

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has been in the news for weeks in Canada and around the world.

The COVID-19 is a new virus in a family of viruses that include the common cold, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).

It originated in Wuhan, China, and has spread globally. More than 80 countries have reported cases of the virus, including Canada. The virus can be spread via droplets from an infected person from coughing or sneezing, from close personal contact with an infected person (like shaking hands), or touching your face after touching a surface contaminated with the virus.

It may take up to 14 days for an infected person to show symptoms, which can range from none or mild symptoms to fever, cough, respiratory distress, and pneumonia.

It appears that older people and those with underlying medical conditions (like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc) are more at risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19 than others. There is currently no treatment or vaccine for the virus, which is why it is so important to limit the spread of the virus.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has deemed the risk of catching COVID-19 in Canadians as low, but it is still important to take precautions and prepare for all scenarios. Here are some facts and recommendations on what you can do to protect yourself and loved ones.

1. Stay home if you are sick. Do your part to prevent the spread of illnesses, not just COVID-19 but also illness like the flu and the common cold.
2. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
3. Avoid touching your face with your hands.
4. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
5. Cover your sneezes and coughs with your arms or tissues, not with your hands.
6. Wear a face mask if you have symptoms (eg. cough, fever, sneezing, runny nose) to prevent the spread of illness to others. If you are a healthy person without symptoms and without a history of travel, you do not need to wear a mask.
7. Limit all non-essential travel. The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued travel advisories to China, Iran, and Italy, but as more countries report cases of COVID-19, it is likely that travel advisories may be issued to other countries.
8. If you do travel, monitor your symptoms on your return to Canada. If you develop fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you need to isolate yourself at home, avoid going outside, and call your family physician office or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

If you have more questions about COVID-19 or want to find out more information, visit canada.ca/coronavirus for the latest updates.

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