Image copyright U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Image caption Authorities in Toronto and Alberta tried to prevent the spread of the virus
Toronto is capable of doing something no other Canadian city has done: getting almost everyone completely vaccinated against a virus that can cause deadly encephalitis, officials say.
At a press conference on Friday, the director of public health in Toronto, Glen Docherty, and Alberta’s deputy chief medical officer, Christian Garon, said they believed enough people had been vaccinated by the end of the week.
Almost 130 people were infected with coronavirus from July 1 to 3. Of those, five were dead.
Image copyright U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Image caption The virus’ incubation period can last up to 15 days
The coronavirus strains are similar to the H1N1 virus that can cause severe pneumonia.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, in the US, said there is no safe level of exposure to the virus – it is a potent virus that can cause severe illness even when taken seriously, it added.
In April, Canada’s health agency said the deadly illness had spread to 67 of Alberta’s 85 municipalities.
The WHO has reported over 40 deaths around the world since 2003 from a coronavirus that was first identified in Saudi Arabia.
Colonic encephalitis is a less serious version of the same virus.
Canada’s cases so far have been primarily in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). But healthcare professionals believe that healthcare workers who were infected may have been spreading the virus to others.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Canada’s health agency said it is investigating what happened
Canada’s director general of disease control, Dr Gregory Taylor, has confirmed they are investigating how healthcare workers had acquired the infection in the first place.
But, he said, “we don’t know yet whether that’s how it spread,” adding they were looking at all of the hypotheses.
Even if it was a patient passing the virus onto healthcare staff, how people acquired the virus was key, the WHO said.
After exposure to the virus – which can range from common colds to serious diseases – it takes between two and 15 days for the infection to enter the body.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption UK authorities expect a second case of coronavirus to surface in England
The virus can persist in the body for a week after infection but only requires a small reservoir of infected cells and the transmission of the virus to kill any potentially infected cells.
The virus that has infected the GTA and some individuals in Alberta is one strain of the coronavirus – which is what has been the focus of the outbreaks.
The WHO’s assistant director-general for health security, Dr Margaret Chan, said the Toronto outbreak in particular could serve as a “wake-up call”.
This morning, Canada’s health agency sent a health alert to clinics saying they should “consider common-sense precautions” such as making sure barriers and bandages used to stop blood from leaking into patients and visitors were clean and disinfected.
Image copyright AP Image caption U.S. health officials fear that Europeans may see a spike in the number of illness brought about by this virus
The virus has not been reported in Europe or the United States but Canadian authorities are investigating “all contacts” of people who contracted the virus in their country.
Robert Webster, associate professor of medicine at the University of Manitoba and the chair of the Canadian Association of Public Health Communicable Diseases, said two cases of suspected coronavirus infection of staff had been found in Canada.
“Our concern is that there may be people in Canada who are susceptible to this virus or in contact with this virus and we don’t know that yet, but we do have no indication that people outside of our country have yet become infected,” Dr Webster said.
Officials warned residents who had recently been to Middle Eastern countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Palestine, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – to be on alert for symptoms of infection.