Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in China
Updated: February 22, 2020
Original publication: January 7, 2020
An outbreak of respiratory illness, first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, continues to spread within China. The outbreak now affects all provinces in the country. It is being caused by a novel (new) coronavirus. Disease caused by this novel coronavirus has been given the name COVID-19. Confirmed cases are being reported in countries outside of China, including Canada, and more are expected. Confirmed cases have also been reported amongst international travellers on cruise ships, resulting in the quarantine of passengers on board the vessel.
Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) have confirmed human-to-human transmission is occurring. Available information indicates that older people and people with a weakened immune system or underlying medical condition are considered at higher risk of severe disease. Travellers who get ill while travelling in China may have limited access to timely and appropriate health care. For these reasons, it is recommended that travellers consider avoiding non-essential travel to China.
Chinese officials in some cities are implementing exceptional measures to reduce further spread of the virus. Given these safety and security risks, the Government of Canada is continuing to recommend that Canadians avoid non-essential travel to China and avoid all travel to Hubei province.
On January 30, 2020 the WHO declared the outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
About the COVID-19 outbreak
While it is believed that the virus originated from an animal, the widespread outbreak is due to human-to-human transmission.
As with other respiratory illnesses, COVID-19 can cause mild symptoms including cough and fever. It can also be more severe for some people and lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties.
A number of countries and territories have begun screening travellers arriving from China. Travellers returning to Canada from areas affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, particularly from Hubei Province, should be attentive to messages and instructions being provided at Canadian airports. They will be asked about their travel history and may be asked further questions about their health.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is actively monitoring the situation and working with the WHO and other international partners to gather additional information. The situation is evolving rapidly. Please verify travel health recommendations regularly as they may change over the course of your travel as new information becomes available.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses. Some coronaviruses can cause no or mild illness, like the common cold, but other coronaviruses can cause severe illness, like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Some human coronaviruses spread easily between people, while others do not.
There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses. Most people with common human coronavirus illnesses will recover on their own.
Recommendations for travellers
If you travel to China, take precautions against respiratory and other illnesses while travelling, and seek medical attention if you become sick.
During your trip:
- Avoid spending time in large crowds or crowded areas.
- Avoid contact with sick people, especially if they have fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.
- Avoid contact with animals (alive or dead), live animal markets, and animal products such as raw or undercooked meat.
- Be aware of the local situation and follow local public health advice. In some areas, access to health care may be affected.
Travellers are reminded to follow usual health precautions:
Wash your hands:
- Wash your hands often with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available. It's a good idea to always keep some with you when you travel.
Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette:
- Cover your mouth and nose with your arm to reduce the spread of germs.
- If you use a tissue, dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards.
Monitor your health:
If you become sick when you are travelling, avoid contact with others except to see a health care professional.
If you feel sick during your flight to Canada or upon arrival, inform the flight attendant or a Canadian border services officer.
Travellers returning from mainland China (excluding Hubei Province)
For 14 days after the day you left mainland China, the Public Health Agency of Canada asks that you:
- monitor your health for fever, cough and difficulty breathing; and,
- avoid crowded public spaces and places where you cannot easily separate yourself from others if you become ill.
If you start having symptoms:
- isolate yourself from others as quickly as possible
- immediately call a health care professional or public health authority
- describe your symptoms and travel history
They will provide advice on what you should do.
To further protect those around you, wash your hands often and cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Travellers returning from Hubei Province, China
The Public Health Agency of Canada asks that you contact the public health authority in the province or territory where you live or are staying within 24 hours of arriving in Canada.
If, before you reach your destination, you have fever, cough or difficulty breathing, clean your hands and put on the mask provided to you at the airport. If you are in the air, immediately tell a crew member about your symptoms. If you are on the ground, immediately call the public health authority in the province or territory where you are located.
You are also asked to limit your contact with others for 14 days after the day you left the province of Hubei, China.
To limit contact with others:
- stay home (self-isolate);
- avoid individuals with chronic conditions, compromised immune systems and older adults;
- avoid having visitors to your home;
- wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds; and
- cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing or sneezing.
For 14 days after the day you left the province of Hubei, China you should continue to watch for fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. If you have these symptoms, call the public health authority in the province or territory you are in to inform them. They will provide advice on what you should do.
Government of Canada novel coronavirus information line: 1-833-784-4397
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