As British Columbia’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased from four to five last week, the public health authority for northern B.C. is officially recommending staff and students returning from Hubei Province in China stay home for 14 days.
In a Feb. 11 letter sent to parents in the region, Northern Health said the highest number of infections continue to come from the virus’ presumed epicentre in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province.
However, they also said their understanding of the virus is developing.
“We are now aware of early evidence that this virus can cause a range of mild to severe symptoms,” the letter reads. “It is possible that people will not recognize symptoms that are mild.”
On top of recommending those coming from Hubei stay home, Northern Health is also recommending students and staff who have been in close contact with someone that has been diagnosed with COVID-19 consider staying home for 14 days after their last encounter.
It also suggests students who have travelled to China but not within Hubei Province should “monitor themselves daily for symptoms like fever or cough for 14 days” but stops short of recommending they stay home.
Northern Health added it isn’t necessary for healthy children who are returning from China to wear a face mask to school.
Anyone who develops symptoms is being asked to stay at home and call their healthcare provider or 811 to discuss any need for testing or follow-up.
Currently the Province has not identified the location of those who have already been diagnosed with the virus beyond the regional health authority they live in. While the first four cases were within the Vancouver Coastal Health region the latest case, announced on Feb. 14, is a woman from the Province’s Interior Health region.
The Interior News reached out to Northern Health to ask how individuals can tell if they have come into contact with someone infected by the virus if the Province is not releasing more specific information on where those who are infected live.
In response, Northern Health redirected the paper to the BC Centre for Diesease Control (BCCDC) for questions related to the process of contact tracing (identifying close contacts of confirmed cases, who are those most likely to have been exposed).
The Interior News has reached out to the BCCDC for comment on the above.
The Northern Health letter says students who miss school will have opportunities for distance learning and other ways to catch up on any missed work when they return.
It is also asking the public not to make assumptions about the risk of students or staff based on their ethnicity or travel history.
“While we do not recommend wearing masks for healthy children, it is important that any children who do wear masks are treated with respect and not fear.”
As of 6 p.m. on Feb. 14, COVID-19 has officially infected just under 67,000 individuals and resulted in a total of 1,523 deaths.
At least 8,065 have recovered from the virus.
In Canada, there are currently eight confirmed cases of COVID-19.
There are at least eight more Canadians infected on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship which has been placed in quarantine since a man who got off in Hong Kong on Feb. 3 tested positive for the virus.
Anyone with additional questions about COVID-19 can call 1-833-784-4397 toll free to speak to someone about the virus.