British Columbia·Video

B.C.'s top doctor clears up common misconceptions about virulence, transmission and spread of the coronavirus

Dr. Bonnie Henry joins host Stephen Quinn on The Early Edition to respond to questions and concerns about the coronavirus.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says single case detected so far poses little risk

Travellers from Asia are routinely wearing face masks as they arrive at airports in North America and Europe. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says risk from the novel coronavirus is low for British Columbians despite one confirmed case of the virus in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

B.C.'s top doctor joined host Stephen Quinn on  The Early Edition Wednesday morning to answer questions about transmission, symptoms and protection against the virus, which broke out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last month.

What do we know about this one case?

I'm very confident the tests we have at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control have identified this case. It is a man in his 40s who visited Wuhan on a business trip and had limited contact with others after flying back to B.C.

Could the virus have been transmitted to others on the same airplane?

The person did not have any symptoms on the flight and didn't develop symptoms until he returned home, so we do not believe there is risk to anybody who was on that flight.

Dr. Bonnie Henry answers British Columbians' questions in the video below:

B.C.'s top doctor answers questions about coronavirus

2 years ago
3:20
As infection rates climb in China, experts say the risk here in B.C. is still low. But that hasn't stopped a flood of questions about the infectious disease. 3:20

Is it possible for people to transmit the virus before showing symptoms?

We haven't seen evidence of that yet. I think we don't know for sure and there may be some very limited people who might transmit it slightly before they develop symptoms, but that certainly is not what is driving the outbreak in China. It is clearly from people who are symptomatic and in close contact with others.

When you have the virus in droplets that get into the air, and other people breathe them in or contact them, that's how this virus is transmitted. It is very rare or unlikely that people will transmit it before they have symptoms.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announces the first case of coronavirus in Metro Vancouver at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Should employees who travelled to areas where the virus is affecting people have a medical check-up before returning to work?

I don't think at this point that is something we need to do. 

People who have been in the area where the outbreak is happening should monitor themselves for symptoms and the moment they have any call their health care provider to let us know and we can safely get you to a place where you can be assessed, tested and cared for if need be. 

We think the maximum incubation period for this virus is 14 days, but most people start having symptoms between day three and day six.

Should people travelling anywhere right now be taking extra precautions?

Right now, the risk to those of us outside of China is very low.

I wouldn't take any other precautions than what we normally do — clean your hands regularly, cover up your cough and sneezes and if you have a fever or feel unwell stay away from others. You're much more likely to come in contact with influenza at this time of year.

What does RO mean?

It's the reproduction number, so the number of people that are affected from each case.

Every person who is affected with influenza infects one or two people and for SARS it was around three to five. The coronavirus rate is probably around two to three. 

What is the mortality rate?

When you have a new outbreak and a new disease you see the most severe cases first and the mortality rate can look quite high initially.

Based on information from the World Health Organization, it looks like the number of people who die based on the number of those infected is possibly less than SARS, which was around 10 per cent. This virus looks like it is around three to four per cent. 

This interview aired on The Early Edition on Jan. 29 and has been edited for clarity and structure. To hear the complete interview, tap the audio link below or watch the Twitter video above:

With files from The Early Edition

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