New Brunswick

Health officials in province await outstanding COVID-19 test results

The province’s acting chief medical officer of health says there are still some outstanding tests that remain for coronavirus in New Brunswick.

Specimens are sent to the Georges-L.-Dumont lab in Moncton, then to National Microbiology Lab in Manitoba

Dr. Cristin Muecke, New Brunswick's acting chief medical officer of health, says there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the province. (Photo: CBC News)

The province's acting chief medical officer of health says officials are still awaiting the results of some tests for coronavirus in New Brunswick, but no cases have been confirmed so far.

There have been four cases where people have been tested and cleared for the virus, Dr. Cristin Muecke told reporters Thursday.

A person who has symptoms, such as fever, cough or breathing problems, would get the testing underway with a visit to a doctor, where a specimen such as a throat or nasal swab would be taken.

"If an individual is suspect for COVID-19 goes to their health-care provider, the health-care provider would collect the appropriate specimens," Muecke said.

Those specimens would immediately be sent to a regional lab, which would have "very quick transportation mechanisms" to get them to the Georges-L.-Dumont lab in Moncton.

The hospital is New Brunswick's virology reference lab, which has the ability to test for COVID-19.

South Korean soldiers wear protective gear as they prepare to spray disinfectant in Seoul on Thursday. (Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press)

"That capacity to have that initial heads-up does exist in New Brunswick at the current time." 

CBC News has asked the Department of Health for the exact number of outstanding COVID-19 test results and is waiting for a response.

Testing also done in Manitoba 

Once specimens are sent to Moncton, the lab would do its own testing and find initial results for the virus within 24 hours. 

At the same time, the lab would package part of the sample and send it to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Canada's only Level-4 virology facility. The Winnipeg lab is equipped to work with the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases, such as Ebola. 

It's also one of only a handful in North America capable of handling dangerous pathogens.

The National Microbiology Lab is Canada's only Level-4 lab and is capable of testing related to the most deadly infectious diseases, such as Ebola. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"Winnipeg are the ones with the authoritative results," Muecke said.

She said it would take a couple of days for the Manitoba lab to determine test results, depending on capacity.

But the national laboratory would have been well-prepared for outbreaks like this one. 

Hand sanitizer and face masks selling out at some New Brunswick stores as province prepares for coronavirus outbreak

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Despite zero confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the province, some New Brunswickers have been stockpiling certain products. Hand sanitizer and face masks have been selling out.

"Obviously, as a national reference lab, not only for coronavirus but also for other types of conditions, they would have had plans prepared long ago in terms of how they would ramp up if they had a situation like this." 

A city worker in Tehran disinfects a bus stop sign. Iran has one of the highest death tolls in the world from the coronavirus outside China. (Vahid Salemi/The Associated Press)

The province has been in direct contact with the Dumont Hospital about whether it has enough test kits for the coronavirus, and there has been no shortage, she said. 

"If there were to be issues they would likely not be restricted to New Brunswick," she said. "They would probably be national in nature."

Schools should stay open

Muecke said the Department of Health is not recommending school closures or the use of masks when students return from March break next week. 

Instead, she said, students and staff who have been travelling should self-monitor for 14 days and watch for symptoms.

Travellers coming back from Iran or Hubei province in China are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Muecke also advised people to protect themselves from germs by washing hands often, avoiding contact with people who are sick, staying home when sick, sneezing and coughing into their sleeves, and avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth.

Health officials in Quebec announced a presumptive coronavirus case early Thursday morning. If confirmed, it would be the second case in the province.

Ontario reported two additional cases Thursday, bringing the total in the province to 22. 

If Quebec's latest case is confirmed, it will bring Canada's reported cases of COVID-19 to 37 — with most of the cases in Ontario and B.C.

With files from Harry Forestell, The Associated Press


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