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No confirmed coronavirus in N.S.: chief medical officer

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, retweeted a tweet that called into question the existence of chronic Lyme disease.
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. - Contributed

There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nova Scotia, says Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health.

In Nova Scotia and in Canada, the risk is still low, according to Dr. Robert Strang. Although the numbers have been increasing in China, they are not seeing a broad spread of the disease outside China.

There have been three cases in Canada and a number of cases around the world, but they aren’t leading to transmission within those countries, he said.

There were concerns about a number of students who came back from China, the origin point for the outbreak, right after Christmas. However, this disease has at the most a 14-day incubation period, he said.

“So anybody who came back after Christmas who was going to be sick would have been sick well before now,” Strang said.

The cases in Canada were identified early and were well-managed and there have been no further transmissions.

“Certainly the risk assessment by the public agency of Canada is that the risk remains low, I’m certainly in full agreement with that.”

As well, he said, it is only people who traveled to or from the Hubei province, not anywhere else in China, who are at risk, as it's confined to a very specific geographical area.

“My message to Nova Scotians is if they feel they need to be worried about a respiratory virus, worry about influenza. It’s here and it’s spreading, and it has a significant impact, like every year,” he said. “Coronavirus is not here, we have good steps in place both for national screening at the airports as well as in our health-care system to identify people very quickly if they may have been in that very specific part of the world.”

Hearing a restaurant is cleaning the tables with alcohol and putting hand sanitizer on the tables, is certainly helping to prevent the spread of the flu, Strang said.

“If people are coming in the restaurant coughing, they may have had the influenza but they wouldn’t have had the coronavirus.”

Strang said he has heard stories of situations with regard to racist attitudes. People travel to Nova Scotia from all parts of the world, he said, so it is sad to see any racist attitudes against people who may look like they are from China.

“They may be a second- or third-generation Canadian and may not have traveled from anywhere.

“What we need to do is discourage that and part of the way to do that is by giving good, factual information.”

Strang said he gets why people are concerned, as this virus outbreak is getting a huge amount of media and social media coverage, some of which seems to be over-exaggerating the risks.

They’ve have given good information out to Cape Breton University and other universities and communities across the province about how to appropriately screen, the questions they need to ask and the information needed to give out to students.

“All those protocols in place, those in the health-care system are well-prepared to identify the symptoms and put infectious control measures around those people immediately, wholly appropriate tests are being taken to determine if the person does have the virus,” Strang said.

The symptoms are flu-like and include any respiratory virus signs, such as a fever, developing a new cough or exasperation of an existing cough or shortness of breath.

“Either or any one of those symptoms that would suggest there’s something in your lungs, that you’ve developed an infection in your lungs,” Strang added.

The virus is of "droplet spread" — when people cough or sneeze it’s in droplets of respiratory secretions, up to about two metres away. You have to have close contact within two metres, face-to-face with someone. If coughing or sneezing, cough or sneeze into your sleeve or into your hands with a Kleenex and wash your hands.

“If someone coughs or sneezes it’s going to fall to the ground or a tabletop,” he said.

“Most respiratory diseases are spread by this droplet method.”

Strang said that’s why they say to wash your hands frequently, try to avoid putting your hands to your face or mouth, as that’s how you contaminate yourself if you have the virus on your hands.

Surfaces such as tabletops, railings or doorknobs is often how it spreads. Avoid close contact with other people, to minimize your chance of spreading it around.

These measures also help stop the spread of influenzas viruses that we know are here every winter, he said.

Strang said to ensure factual information is out there on the coronavirus, the provincial government has set up a website with a link to the federal government’s website, with even more information at

Strang has done many media interviews as well, adding there’s a huge effort underway to give Nova Scotians accurate information.

“A lot of work has happened in the last couple weeks around getting good information out to the health system, getting good information out to the public,” he said. “I’m very confident the health system in Nova Scotia is very prepared for the event of early detection and applying appropriate infection control if any individual with it is found in the Nova Scotia health-care system.”


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