There are no local cases yet of the new virus from China that’s caused 17 deaths and hundreds of sicknesses. But area residents should know how to prevent the spread of this coronavirus, says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. (Advocate file photo).

Awareness is needed to prevent the spread of new virus in central Alberta, says expert

So far the virus from Wuhan, China, has killed 17 people, sickened more than 550

Central Albertans should be aware of ways to prevent catching the world’s newest, potentially deadly virus, says Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

But it’s not a panic situation, as there are no reported cases in Alberta of the coronavirus 2019 that originated in Wuhan, China, she added.

So far, the outbreak has killed 17 people, infected more than 555 people and has spread to at least six other countries, including the western U.S. This has sparked fears of a possible pandemic.

On Wednesday, local Chinese authorities announced the city of Wuhan will be quarantined, with all transportation halted.

Canada hasn’t told citizens not to travel to this region, but since the coronavirus has managed to jump from animals to humans, and is now thought to be spreading through human-to-human contact via airborne droplets, Hinshaw recommends travellers in this part of China stay away from live animal markets and farms.

At home, central Albertans can try to avoid contracting the virus by following the same hand-washing protocols that are done to prevent the spread of regular influenza, said Hinshaw.

Not touching your eyes and face with unwashed hands is another important precaution. And she added that mouths should always be covered when sneezing and coughing.

Any area resident who develops a fever and flu-like sickness after being in the Wuhan region, or coming in contact with someone who has been there, should give their local hospital advanced warning about their symptoms and exposure.

Hinshaw said that way, medical staff can be prepared and wear protective masks when the patient arrives. The examination can also be done in a space away from other patients.

Medical experts are are still trying to fully understand the coronavirus and stop the spread of a new form of virus that was first detected in mid-December.

But the World Health Organization hasn’t yet declared the virus a public health emergency of international scale, as the organization decided more information was needed.

Hinshaw said most people who have died from the virus also had other pre-existing conditions that could have weakened their state of health.

She noted regular influenza can also endanger people. Twelve Albertans have already died from it this winter.

Alberta Health Services Central Zone

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