Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam participates in a press conference following the announcement by the Government of Ontario of the first presumptive confirmed case of a novel coronavirus in Canada, in Ottawa, on January 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canada prepared to monitor for community spread of COVID-19: Tam

The U.S. confirmed one case of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, in California Thursday

Canada’s top public-health official Dr. Theresa Tam says Canada has begun to look at tracking local spread of the novel coronavirus, just as the United States confirmed a case of the virus that does not appear linked with international travel.

The risk of contracting the disease in Canada is low, but for the second day in a row Thursday the number of new cases confirmed outside China was greater than the number of new cases within the country where the illness was first detected.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director general, said the world is at a decisive point in its fight to contain the virus, which has now spread to 46 countries.

“In the past 24 hours, seven countries have reported cases for the first time,” Ghebreyesus said in a briefing, adding that “community-based transmission” — when the bug spreads within new areas, rather than being brought in by one person at a time from somewhere else — is being seen in more countries as well.

The U.S. confirmed one case of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, in California Thursday that could not be linked to international travel, suggesting the person contracted the virus within the United States.

The woman, who was not identified, first sought medical care at a hospital in Vacaville, a city of more than 100,000 people about 95 kilometres from San Francisco.

She stayed there for three days but doctors did not test her for the virus because she did not meet federal testing criteria, NorthBay Healthcare Group president Aimee Brewer said in a statement. The patient was then transferred to a Sacramento hospital where she tested positive for the virus.

READ MORE: Vancouver port CEO warns of coronavirus woes as China trade continues to ebb

In a briefing Thursday, Tam said Canada has methods to monitor for possible spread of the virus within the country — systems typically used to monitor influenza — and if public-health agencies discover the spread of COVID-19 they will work quickly to try to contain it.

“I think that’s actually something that all countries should be moving toward as well,” she said.

In the meantime, while Canada is still trying to keep COVID-19 out of the country, the public health agency is taking stock of the need for personal protective equipment and other supplies to make sure there are enough to go around in case of a pandemic outbreak.

On Thursday night, Quebec public health officials reported the province’s first presumptive case of the coronavirus.

Health Minister Danielle McCann said the patient, a woman from the Montreal region, had recently returned from Iran.

She said testing by the province’s public health lab came back positive for COVID-19, but the result needs to be confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.

Earlier Thursday, Ontario confirmed its first case of person-to-person transmission. The patient is the husband of a woman believed to have contracted the virus in Iran, which has seen a sudden rash of cases in the last week.

The husband was not in Iran with his wife and health officials said is marks the first time Ontario has seen a case of human-to-human transmission — the patients in all of the other cases had recently travelled to China.

British Columbia has also had a case of person-to-person transmission, also involving a man who had close contact with a woman who had recently been to Iran.

There are 13 confirmed cases of the virus in Canada, all in Ontario or B.C., and so far all have been linked to international travel or close contact with someone who has recently returned to the country.

If Quebec’s case is confirmed, it would be the 14th confirmed case of the virus in Canada, and the first outside of Ontario and B.C.

Globally, there are 82,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 2,800 deaths.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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