More than 100 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus in B.C. in the weeks since a global outbreak began, the province said Friday, with the vast majority returning a negative result.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has tested 114 samples since it developed its own diagnostic test for the virus this month.
Only one person has tested positive, with the diagnosis later confirmed with a second test by a national laboratory in Winnipeg. All of the other results were negative.
“The lab is working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make sure we can process these samples as quickly as possible,” said Henry, adding the lab is “stretched” by the sudden workload.
“Yes, it is taking its toll, but we are supporting them,” Henry said.
Health officials are at a critical phase in the response to the coronavirus, Henry said, after China took restrictive measures to try and control the outbreak.
“Those measures were taken really about 10 days ago and we are now at the point where people have travelled here to B.C. and to Canada who are incubating this disease may start showing symptoms.”
Henry said new data from China shows the incubation period is, for the most part, a maximum of 10 days. She said the province has been using 14 days “to give ourselves a bit of a buffer zone,” but the average incubation period is about five days.
B.C. has taken a “vigilant” approach to the coronavirus and has done a high number of tests because it has “a very low threshold for testing,” Henry said.
“We will be continuing that, particularly for the next week or so,” she added.
The health officer said the figures are based on results as of Thursday.
The province announced B.C.’s first presumed coronavirus case on Tuesday. Testing at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg returned positive Wednesday, confirming the case is indeed the virus spreading around the globe.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global health emergency on Thursday. Nearly 10,000 people have been sickened in China and in several countries in the past two months. More than 200 have died, all in China.
Including the patient in B.C., four cases have been confirmed in Canada.
Henry said provincial health-care officials are in regular contact with the patient, who is in stable condition and isolated at home in the Vancouver Coastal Health area. He is in his 40s and had travelled to China on business.
The patient spent most of his time in the port city of Guangzhou and visited Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak. Symptoms arose after he flew back to Vancouver.
Officials said the man is being actively monitored multiple times a day, every day, and is expected to recover.
Canadian public health officials say the risk of contracting the illness in this country remains low.
The health officer said most of the 114 people tested in B.C. had been in contact with health-care officials by their own volition, including the man who was diagnosed. Only “a handful” were people sent for assessment by officials at Vancouver International Airport since additional screening measures were implemented this month.
Henry said “a number” of people are being tested by the BCCDC every day. The test returns results in about 24 hours.
The other three patients in Canada are in Ontario: a husband and wife from Toronto and a woman from London, Ont.
The man from Toronto was released from the city’s Sunnybrook hospital on Friday, as officials said his condition had improved to the point where he could go home. His condition will continue to be monitored.
The other two patients remain in isolation.
Coronavirus infections typically manifest as the common cold. Symptoms can include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat and fever.
The WHO, a UN agency, said most people who got the illness had milder cases, with only 20 per cent experiencing severe symptoms.