Provincial medical officer of health says they’re prepared

Province says risk of coronavirus becoming a serious health threat in Newfoundland and Labrador is low

Nick Travis

The chief medical officer of Newfoundland and Labrador says the province is prepared for coronavirus, but chances of it coming here in the first place are slim.

More than 40,000 people worldwide are now sick with the coronavirus – 2019-nCoV – that originated in China in December. There have been more than 1,000 fatalities, but only one outside of China.

In St. John’s, face masks have flown off the shelves faster than they can be restocked as people react to the health crisis a world away.

“So, right now we’re in containment mode.”

The province’s chief medical officer of health, Janice Fitzgerald, wants people to know the province is keeping a close eye on the situation. According to her, the health authority has had meetings at the federal and regional levels to discuss how to handle any future cases of coronavirus.

“There are existing plans that we have to deal with respiratory illnesses, outbreaks, pandemic and things like that,” said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald said that any sick person who enters Canada is likely to be tracked down before they can infect others. She pointed out that this has already happened in Ontario and British Columbia. There are currently four cases of coronavirus in Canada, all of which have been contained.

“When we see new respiratory pathogens come into the country, it doesn’t happen all at once,” said Fitzgerald. “So, right now we’re in containment mode. We’re being really vigilant about identifying people who have been in higher risk areas. [We’re] asking those people to contact public health. Some of those people we’ve been asking to isolate themselves, so in case they become symptomatic they don’t spread it to anyone else.”

“If you haven’t already, get your flu shot…”

As of Thursday, Health and Community Services has assessed that the public risk from coronavirus is low.

“What it appears, [as of] right now, is the majority of the people that contract this illness have mild symptoms,” said Fitzgerald.

Jenelle Blundell, a local RN, thinks coronavirus is nothing to worry about in this province. She pointed out that those who are most affected are often young, old or already sick. Nick Travis/Kicker
Jenelle Blundell, a local registered nurse, thinks coronavirus is nothing to worry about in this province. She pointed out that those who are most affected are often the old or are already sick. Nick Travis/Kicker

Jenelle Blundell, a registered nurse at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s, recommends a few general rules to avoid infectious illnesses. According to her, good hygiene is the most important aspect of staying healthy.

“I would say the most important thing is to wash your hands, and if you are sick stay home so you don’t spread it to other people,” said Blundell. “Always sneeze and cough into your elbows. If you haven’t already, get your flu shot … because influenza affects a lot of people every year.”

Health and Community Services says anyone who has been to high-risk areas should monitor their health since symptoms can appear up to 14 days after exposure. People showing symptoms that feel worse than the common cold, including fever and pneumonia, are advised to avoid contact with others and contact a doctor or the provincial HealthLine at 811.

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