New coronavirus cases tracked closely
Posted: Feb 25, 2013 5:07 PM ET
Last Updated: Feb 25, 2013 5:05 PM ET
An infectious disease specialist in Toronto is trying to predict where new cases of a respiratory infection could crop up next.
The Geneva-based World Health Organization has encouraged countries to be on the lookout for NCoV, a coronavirus known to have infected 13 people in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and the United Kingdom. There have been seven deaths.Coronaviruses are a cause of the common cold but can also be the cause of more severe illnesses (Beth Fischer/Canadian Press)
Last week, WHO urged countries to consider molecular tests for the virus if someone has unexplained pneumonia or a severe respiratory infection that doesn't respond to treatment, particularly if the patient has recently travelled or come from affected countries.
Without a blood test to detect antibodies to the virus, cases can only be reliably determined using sophisticated and rapid diagnostic capabilities that may not be widely accessible in more resource-limited areas of the world such as South Asia.
"Our work has identified that about 50 per cent of all the travellers that leave Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan end up going to resource-limited countries — low and lower income countries that don't really have robust public health and medical systems," said Dr. Kamran Khan, an infectious disease specialist and scientist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.
"Being vigilant and really directing some of your resources to areas that have the highest risk, that is really going to offer you the greater potential of anticipating where this virus might show up and perhaps mitigate its impact."
In the U.K., a man who had recently travelled to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia became severely ill after his return. He tested positive for the coronavirus, as did two other members of his family who had not travelled abroad. Another female family member recovered after a mild illness, according to the UK Health Authority.
It's important to keep in mind that the total number of infections is unknown and the full spectrum of illness is unclear, Khan said.
"If there are a larger number of people with mild infectious they may go undetected," Khan said. "They may still be capable of spreading the virus to others, but they may not necessarily come to the attention of public health officials and health providers."
If so, the mortality rate from the virus is lower than it currently seems.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is advising people travelling to areas with confirmed infections to seek medical attention if they develop symptoms that include difficulty breathing.
Coronaviruses are a cause of the common cold but can also be the cause of more severe illnesses. So far, all cases of the new coroanvirus have experienced flu-like illness — coughing, mucous, shortness of breath, malaise, chest pain and/or fever.
It is difficult to distinguish between symptoms of the new coronavirus and seasonal respiratory infections, said Todd Hatchette, director of virology and immunology at the QE2 Health Science Centre in Halifax.
"You really have to look for the key features that would suggest they're at risk for this particular virus and right now that's travel to an area where someone has been infected or attached to a cluster of the infections."
Hatchette and Khan agreed Canadians should not be alarmed. They suggest common-sense precautions such as staying home when sick and seeking general travel medical advice before leaving.With files from CBC's Pauline Dakin
Top News Headlines
- 30,000 Canadians are homeless every night
- A new national report into homelessness in this country tells a grim story — at least 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness in any given year and least 30,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night. more »
- Obesity called a disease by U.S. doctors group
- In order to fight what it described as an "obesity epidemic," the American Medical Association voted to recognize obesity as a disease and recommended a number of measures to fight it. more »
- Neil Macdonald: Washington's obsession with leakers
- Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are just the most prominent targets in an all-out legal and propaganda campaign that America's security apparatus is mounting against leakers everywhere, Neil Macdonald writes. more »
- How open is Ottawa's new 'open data' website?
- Treasury Board President Tony Clement is touting the federal government's revamped data portal as a "new natural resource." But that online window for previously published data arrives at the same time the government faces controversy over just how open it really is. more »
Latest Health News Headlines
- Are e-cigarettes safe to puff?
- As electronic or e-cigarettes grow in popularity, some health advocates want them to be regulated. more »
- Fredericton teen attends prom despite serious allergies
- A Fredericton high school student went to her prom on Tuesday night, despite the threat that one waft of perfume could have serious consequences. more »
- Sexually transmitted oral cancers screened with early blood test
- Antibodies to a high-risk type of a virus that causes mouth and throat cancers when transmitted via oral sex can be detected in blood tests many years before onset of the disease, according to a World Health Organization-led team of researchers. more »
- Nunavummiut waiting up to a year for eye exams
- Unlike every other province and territory in Canada, Nunavut does not have its own optometrist or ophthalmologist. That's causing a wait time of up to a year for many of the territory's residents. more »
- 2 men jailed in Dominican wedding fight back in Canada
- Bob Rae stepping down as an MP
- Half of First Nations children live in poverty
- All-party deal on bills, MP oversight lets House out early
- Are e-cigarettes safe to puff?
- Huge ancient city at Angkor Wat revealed by lasers
- Tim Hortons being circled by Wall Street hedge funds
- B.C. teacher duct-taped students' mouths
- Most groups don't want return of Trudeau speaking fees