Sudbury

Sudbury doctor says coronavirus is on her radar, but cautions against panic

The Medical Officer of Health for Public Health Sudbury and Districts says the agency is better equipped now to handle a case of coronavirus than it was when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was detected in Canada in 2003.

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe says procedures are in place to share up-to-date information on new illness

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe says news on the new coronavirus is evolving rapidly and she's keeping track of developments. (Submitted by Public Health Sudbury and Districts)

The Medical Officer of Health for Public Health Sudbury and Districts says the agency is better equipped now to handle a case of coronavirus than it was when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was detected in Canada in 2003.

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe said there are concerns about cases of coronavirus in China and a case in the United States but it has not been detected, so far, in Canada.

To date, as many as 26 people in China have died of the flu-like illness.

China has locked down several cities at the hub of the outbreak as authorities try to prevent a global pandemic.

Sutcliffe said the Health Unit's role is to share with health care providers locally what she learns from the provincial level.

"One thing that I can say locally, is that we have excellent systems in place now that we did not have at the time of SARS around communication, making sure that between the different sectors or even within health care, that we can quickly ramp up and inform each other what's happening and make sure that we're all following the same the same guidelines," she says.

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Sutcliffe said people should not be alarmed, but stay level-headed and informed.

She said it's dangerous to speculate without adequate information and the role of public health to keep people up-to-date.

"It's very critical," she said.."The other thing that's so important is to make sure we have good processes in place so that there is not misinformation when people are worried or they're concerned. If there's a gap in information, we fill it often with the most dire assumptions."

For now, the World Health Organization has decided the spread of the new coronavirus does not constitute a global health emergency.

A special committee convened in Geneva on Thursday was divided on the issue, but ultimately ruled it was too early because of the limited number of cases abroad and containment efforts by Chinese authorities. 

But the WHO is still urging countries to screen international travellers and ensure hospitals have the ability to detect and trace suspected cases.

As for Sutcliffe, the issue remains on her radar, and is evolving quite rapidly.

She said the public should stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

with files from Markus Schwabe

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