Nova Scotians don't need be 'overly concerned' with coronavirus, says top health official

Nova Scotia's chief medical officer says while he's watching developments with China's coronavirus outbreak, Nova Scotians and Canadians don't need to be "overly concerned" with it.

As of Wednesday, there have been 544 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 17 deaths. At least one confirmed case has been reported in the U.S.

Symptoms of coronaviruses, which are a large family of viruses, cause a range of illnesses from the common cold to more severe diseases like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

"We need to watch this carefully, [but] I think Canadians, in general, don't need to be overly concerned about this," Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer, said in an interview with CBC Nova Scotia News at 6 on Wednesday.

He said he and his colleagues have been receiving daily email updates and holding conference calls.

Mark Schiefelbein/The Associated Press

"As we gain greater knowledge about this virus, there are ways for that information to be rapidly spread around the world for public health officials and clinical folks to use that information," Strang said.

He said global communications have vastly improved since the 2003 SARS epidemic.

Strang said health professionals in Nova Scotia are watching for sick patients who may have travelled to Wuhan, the city in China where the virus is believed to have originated.

So far, there are no suspected cases reported in Nova Scotia.

Strang said if there was a suspected case in Nova Scotia, the patient would be tested and have "the appropriate infection control around them." A specimen from the patient would then be sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg to confirm.

Evolving understanding

Strang said the clinical understanding of the coronavirus is evolving. This includes things like how infectious it might be, what the symptom patterns are, what the time between being exposed and getting symptoms would be, and the infectious period.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization postponed its decision on whether to declare an emergency over coronavirus.