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Montreal hospitals have announced that they are on heightened alert following the public health departments issuing of a “call for vigilance” regarding the new coronavirus.
The coronavirus, which has infected more than 200 people and killed six since the first outbreak in China, is similar to SARS, which caused a global pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) monitoring the situation say they are considering if the outbreak is an international public health emergency.
The virus has not been detected by Canadian authorities, though medical staff in Montreal have begun asking those admitted to the hospital with flu-like symptoms whether they have recently travelled to China.
“It’s good to remain cautious to make sure we can curtail this virus before it spreads more than it has already spread in China,” said Dr. Caroline Quach to the Montreal Gazette Tuesday.
“Whenever someone has a runny nose and a cough, regardless of the etiology (cause), we isolate the patient as a precaution. What all the hospitals have added on top of this now is we make sure that when we triage a patient in the ER, we ask them if they were travelling in the past two weeks, and if people are coming from that area in China, we’re going to isolate them right away, ask them to wear a mask, so that they don’t transmit it to others.”
McGill University Health Centre has reportedly also begun taking the same precautions.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also expected to announce that the first case of the virus has been reported in Washington state, a federal source outside the CDC told CNN.
The coronavirus outbreak has some fearful that an epidemic similar to SARS 2004 could occur, wherein 774 Chinese were killed and nearly 300 infected in Toronto.