A pneumonia outbreak, now known to be caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, was identified in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the virus a public health emergency.
There are no confirmed or probable cases in Alberta. Eight confirmed or probable cases have been announced in Canada.
The current overall risk to Albertans is still considered low by medical experts.
Last updated: Feb. 18 at 8:45 am
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause respiratory illness in people, ranging from mild common colds to severe illnesses. Others cause illness in animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people then spread from person to person through close contact.
Novel coronaviruses are new strains of the virus that have not been previously identified in humans.
The disease is caused by this strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) does not appear to be as severe as other coronaviruses, such as SARS. Many patients have reported only mild symptoms. There is person-to-person spread.
Actions being taken
Alberta’s public health officials are carefully monitoring the situation in Canada, China and around the world, and are ready to respond should there be any cases in Alberta. They are:
- working closely with federal, provincial and territorial partners to share information and assess potential health risks
- ensuring our health system is ready to respond effectively if needed
- ensuring front-line health professionals have information about the virus so they can:
- take recommended actions
- promptly report suspected cases to public health officials
Albertans who’ve visited Hubei province, China, in the last 14 days are being asked to voluntarily isolate themselves until two weeks has passed since that visit. Find out more under the info for Albertans section.
How it's transmitted
At this time, it appears the virus is transmitted by larger droplets, like from a cough or sneeze. Current evidence indicates it is not airborne through long distances or times.
There is no evidence that it's capable of being transmitted by imported goods.
Cases and testing
Cases in Alberta and Canada
There are no confirmed or probable cases in Alberta at this time. The cases in Canada have been travel-related and have been isolated to prevent further transmission.
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Testing in Alberta
Alberta is testing for the novel coronavirus. We are acting out of an excess of caution even when the likelihood of exposure is small or improbable. To date, all tests have been negative for the novel coronavirus.
Testing numbers will be updated weekly, and are current as of February 14.
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Info for Albertans
Info for travellers
As a precautionary measure, people returning from mainland China should follow these steps.
Returning from Hubei Province
If you have returned from Hubei province, we recommend that you isolate yourself until 14 days have passed since that visit. We recommend this even if you are feeling well. This is a precautionary move only.
You can isolate yourself by following these self-isolation guidelines:
- avoid close contact with other people, especially those with chronic conditions, a compromised immune system, or seniors
- do not attend work, school, social events or any other public gatherings
- watch for symptoms like fever, cough or difficulty breathing in yourself or a family member
- call Health Link 811 if any symptoms begin
Returning from other parts of mainland China
If you returned from mainland China outside of Hubei province, we are not recommending self-isolation. However, you should:
- monitor yourself for symptoms like fever or cough daily for 14 days after you have left mainland China
- contact Health Link 811 for medical advice if you or a family member:
- feel ill after returning
- were in contact with someone diagnosed with novel coronavirus
- were in a health-care facility in mainland China
If you are travelling to China or another affected country, consult the:
Info for schools
Alberta public health officials are recommending the following actions as a precaution:
- If a student has visited China’s Hubei province in the last 14 days, it is recommended that they self-isolate until two weeks have passed since that visit. This is recommended even if they are feeling well.
- If a student has travelled to mainland China outside of Hubei province in the last 14 days and they are feeling well, self-isolation is not recommended at this time. However, if the student has symptoms such as cough or fever, their parents are advised to keep the child home and call Health Link 811.
- If a student has travelled to mainland China outside of Hubei province in the last 14 days, and was in contact with someone who was suspected or confirmed to have the novel coronavirus or if they were in a health-care facility while travelling, their parents are advised to call Health Link 811, even if the student is feeling well, to discuss additional precautions.
If a student does not meet the exposure criteria above, they do not need to stay away from school and they will likely not be tested for COVID-19 as they do not meet the testing criteria. Therefore, requesting that the student provide a physician’s note is not appropriate. For health-related questions or concerns, please call Health Link at 811.
- Albert Health memo to school superintendents (PDF, 71 KB)
Info for employers
Alberta public health officials are recommending the following actions as a precaution:
- If employees have visited China’s Hubei province in the last 14 days, it is recommended they isolate themselves until two weeks have passed since that visit. This is recommended even if they are feeling well.
- If employees have travelled to mainland China in the last 14 days and they are feeling well, self-isolation is not recommended at this time, however they are advised to call Health Link 811 if they have symptoms such as cough or fever.
- If employees have travelled to mainland China and were in contact with someone who was suspected or confirmed to have the novel coronavirus or if they were in a health-care facility, they are advised to call Health Link 811, even if they are feeling well, to discuss additional precautions.
If an employee does not meet the exposure criteria above, they do not need to stay away from work, and do not need any testing or a physician’s note to attend work.
Although travel-related cases may be identified, the risk for Albertans is still considered low. Public health measures are in place to quickly identify potential cases and prevent the infection from spreading.
Influenza and other common viruses remain the most likely cause of a respiratory infection. To protect yourself and others:
- use good hygiene practices, such as frequent handwashing
- cover coughs and sneezes
- avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill
- contact your primary health provider or Health Link 811 if you have questions or concerns about your health
Wearing medical masks
- Masks can be very important in certain situations. When sick, wearing a mask helps prevent us from passing illnesses on to other people. This is why we ask people who have a cough or respiratory symptoms to wear a mask and wash their hands when visiting an emergency department or clinic. The WHO recommends medical masks in these settings, if used properly.
- If you are healthy, medical masks are not recommended as they don't provide full protection and can create a false sense of security.
- See appropriate infection prevention and control precautions for health-care settings.
Symptoms for the novel coronavirus are similar to those for influenza or other respiratory illnesses. They can range from mild to severe and include:
- difficulty breathing
- pneumonia and kidney failure
Most cases have reported mild symptoms. However, there is a risk of death in severe cases.
For now, there is no specific vaccine for this strain of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Supportive care has been used in treatment of patients with COVID-19 and some medications are being tested to see if they can help patients with severe disease.
Consult Health Link 811 or your health care provider if you're:
- concerned about your health, or
- feeling ill and recently travelled to China or another affected area
- Government of Canada's 2019 New Coronavirus (2019-nCoV): Outbreak Notification - English | Simplified Chinese
- AHS update on novel coronavirus
- Public Health Agency of Canada’s update on Pneumonia of Unknown Cause in China
- Government of Canada's Travel Health Notice for China
- World Health Organization’s Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw issued the following statement for Albertans on February 18:
“Recently, the BC government announced the province’s fifth case of novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in Canada to eight. Developments continue to unfold around the world, and I know many Albertans have questions.
“I want to reassure you that the current risk in Alberta remains low. There are still no cases in the province. If this changes, our health system is prepared and ready to respond. We're working very closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada to monitor developments and assess any risks here at home.
“While we continue to make preparations, there are things you too can do to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses, which includes influenza — an illness found throughout Alberta. Influenza, like novel coronavirus, can be prevented by practicing good hygiene, such as washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when sick.
“Another thing you can do is stay vigilant against the risk of misinformation, which can spread fear and division.
“From opening our communities to those fleeing from fires, to pitching in to help clean up after floods, Alberta is stronger when we pull together and help each other.
“Albertans come from all over the world, and it is critical as we respond to this new infectious disease that we focus our response on the virus, not people.
“You can help by not making assumptions about a person’s risk based on their ethnicity or country of origin, and by reminding others of this as well."