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Can mosquitoes spread the coronavirus? Your COVID-19 questions answered

We're answering your questions about the pandemic. Send your questions to COVID@cbc.ca and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’ll publish a selection every weekday online, and we’re also putting some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network.  

From mosquitoes to physical distancing at the CBC, here's what you’re asking us today

Mosquitoes are known to sometimes carry certain virus. However, COVID-19 doesn't seem to be one of them which means the virus cannot be transmitted via mosquito bites. (mycteria/Shutterstock)

We're breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic by answering your questions. Send your questions to COVID@cbc.ca and we'll answer as many as we can. We'll publish a selection of answers every weekday online, and put some questions to the experts on The National and CBC News Network.  

We've received thousands of emails from all corners of the country. Your questions have surprised us, stumped us and got us thinking, including a number of questions about mosquitoes and the physical distancing measures being taken at the CBC.

Can mosquitoes spread the coronavirus? Has that been factored into the estimates?

While there are some viruses that mosquitoes and other insects carry, the coronavirus doesn't seem to be one of them and therefore cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites, says the World Health Organization.

Jason Kindrachuk, research chair of microbiology and infectious diseases at University of Manitoba, says mosquitoes aren't something we need to worry about.

"We haven't seen this with other coronaviruses, so it would be very off for something like this to take place," he says.

I got a coronavirus test at the hospital and was told I would get a call in four or five days. It's been 10 days and I haven't heard anything. Am I supposed to presume I am negative?

We are getting a lot of questions about testing, including from Jim Y. who is waiting for his results. Ontario was dealing with a test backlog in late March which meant about 11,000 people were waiting for their results. The backlog has since been reduced to 329. Ontario has also launched an online service where the public can get their test results. 

Other provinces including Alberta have also reported backlogs.

If you're waiting for a test result, Dr. Alon Vaisman, infectious disease specialist at Toronto's University Health Network, says: "You shouldn't assume you're negative." 

You can find more information here about testing in each province.

How is CBC protecting itself?

We've received a number of questions about how CBC News is practising physical distancing during this pandemic, including this email from Nathan H.

CBC newsrooms across the country are largely empty and journalists are working from home. That includes the majority of other staff as well. 

Much of our radio and TV programming, including The National and CBC News Network, is being created mainly from home, with only a core group of on-air and technical staff still in our buildings. Nearly all appearances by guests, panelists and interview subjects are done by video conference or telephone.

For stories that do require news-gathering in the field, reporters and camera crews are following a rigorous process built around distancing our microphones and disinfecting gear. 

CBC's Brett Ruskin gives us a look into how he gathers news in the field, while following social distancing guidelines.  2:16

"We would never compare to front-line health-care services what we do at CBC," said Brodie Fenlon, editor-in-chief of CBC News in a recent blog post. "But we believe strongly that we … play a critical role in conveying trusted, credible information in this time of crisis while also holding authorities to account for the life-changing decisions they make." 

Learn more about how CBC journalists and technicians are covering the news during COVID-19 in Fenlon's Editor's Blog.

I walk my dog where there are a ton of joggers who run past me at an unsafe distance, huffing and puffing. I wear a mask. Should I be concerned about danger from their breath?

We continue to receive a lot of questions about masks and exercise, including this email from Judy L.

First of all, Judy's decision to wear a mask outside is a good idea. Canada's top doctor, Dr. Theresa Tam now says non-medical masks can help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

But does she need to be concerned? Probably not, according to Dr. Matthew Oughton, director of the Royal College Training Program in infectious diseases. He says the risk of being exposed to the virus by a passing jogger is "very low."

"Generally speaking, this virus, as with many respiratory infections, is much more difficult to transmit outdoors than indoors," he says. Oughton explains that constant air movement outside contributes to a faster dispersion of the respiratory droplets and particles exerted from a passing jogger or anyone else.

"A significant exposure is usually considered to be within six feet [or two metres] for several minutes," he says. Assuming that the jogger respects physical distancing, he says "I would not be concerned that this would pose a high risk of transmitting COVID-19 or other respiratory infections."

The important thing is to practise physical distancing, by keeping two metres apart from others, as recommended by Health Canada.

Are there any other preventative measures, such as contact tracing, the government is taking? 

One person with COVID-19 can spread the virus to others, and that's why it's important for public health officials to identify and locate people who may have come in contact with those who have tested positive. This is called contact tracing.

Dr. Richelle Schindler of Alberta Health Services is working on the province's COVID-19 response, and says contact tracing is "one of the best ways to contain this virus." Countries including South Korea, Japan and Singapore have been able to contain the coronavirus through aggressive contact tracing, she says. 

China is using a phone app to track which of its citizens are at risk of COVID-19, but according to the New York Times, the app might also be sending personal information to the police. 

Canadian officials are looking into how technology could help control the outbreak while also protecting patient privacy.  

Physical distancing measures alone aren't going to be enough to stop the spread of the virus, says Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist with Johns Hopkins University. The need for contact tracing is likely to continue to increase, even as overall COVID-19 cases eventually start to level off, she says.

The federal government is calling for volunteers to help with case tracking and contact tracing. Here's where you can get more information, if you're interested in signing up.

You can also read about the measures provinces like Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta are taking to employ and train more people to help track coronavirus cases. 

We're also answering your questions every night on The National. Watch below:

Doctors answer your questions about the coronavirus, including whether people should be wearing homemade or cloth masks when they are outside. 3:30

Monday we answered questions about reusing N95 masks, to how the virus affects infants. Read here.
Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

With files from Michelle Song and Saman Malik

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