The NWT Health Emergency Planner is planning for the potential impact of a coronavirus outbreak on the NWT health-care system.
Dr. Kami Kandola is the Chief Public Health Officer for Northwest Territories.
According to Dr. Kandola, the Public Health Agency of Canada is implementing measures over the coming weeks to detect and contain the infection.
“These measures include messaging on arrival screens at the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver international airports reminding travelers from Wuhan (China) to inform a border service officer if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms,” Dr. Kandola said. “An additional health screening question is to be added to electronic kiosks.”
CKLB Radio contacted the Department of Infrastructure, which oversees operations at the Yellowknife airport, to find out whether similar screening will happen here. We will update when that information becomes available.
Although the coronavirus can present similar symptoms to common cold, the strain causing the outbreak presents more like influenza with fever, cough, sore throat and headache, according to Dr. Kandola.
Coronaviruses are types of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract of mammals, including humans.
She added that, “more severe symptoms include difficulty breathing and pneumonia.”
Human coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person to others around them. According to Dr. Kandola respiratory infections can be spread:
- Directly by inhaling droplets suspended the air through sneezing or coughing
- Indirectly by touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands after shaking hands with a person or touching an object with the virus on it
Although the immediate health risk to the NWT residents is considered low at this time, there are ways that the public can protect themselves from contracting coronaviruses.
Dr. Kandola recommends that residents of the NWT should:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based sanitizer, if no soap is immediately available
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
If you have cold-like or flu like symptoms, Dr. Kandola says you can protect others by:
- Staying home while you are sick
- Avoiding close contact with others
- Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash yours hands. If no tissue is available, then use your elbow
- Clean and disinfect any contaminated objects and surfaces
There is neither a vaccine nor specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses; most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own. But there are some ways to help them speed up the process if they become infected.
“Rest, hydration, adequate nutrition, acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever, humidity and lozenges for cough and sore throat,” Dr. Kandola said.
Dr. Kandola advises anyone who has traveled to Wuhan or has been exposed to someone who has should always tell a health care provider about their recent travel if they become ill.
“They will be provided a mask and be appropriately isolated,” Dr. Kandola said. “If symptoms are not severe or are atypical but they have an exposure connection to the virus, they will be required to be isolated at home.”