5 Quebecers still under observation for possible coronavirus exposure

Quebec public-health authorities were still waiting as of Thursday evening for test results to determine whether five people under hospital surveillance in the province have been infected with the coronavirus sweeping China.

Authorities doubt that any of the five have the 2019-nCoV virus that has killed 18 people since an outbreak in late December in the city of Wuhan. But given that each returned from travels to China recently, officials are not taking any chances.

“There has been no change so far,” said Quebec health ministry spokesperson Marie-Claude Lacasse. “The five patients are still under investigation until laboratory tests confirm or deny that it is the nCov19 coronavirus.”

Lacasse noted that it might take up to 48 hours to obtain the test results.

“The chances are low that the (individuals) will be infected with the coronavirus,” she added. “However, we are acting with caution.”

British Columbia has taken a similar approach to Quebec and is monitoring one person in Vancouver, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said. Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency of Canada indicated on Thursday that currently there are no reports of Canadians infected with the novel coronavirus.

“While the risk of the disease spreading to Canada is considered low, the (agency) is analyzing any potential risks to Canadians on a continuous basis,” it said in a statement.

The Montreal Public Health Department also sought to calm public fears, tweeting that it wants to “reassure the population and remind people that the necessary measures have been taken to diagnose any cases that could present in Quebec.”

Also on Thursday, the World Health Organization announced it was “too early” to declare the coronavirus a global health emergency.

To date, the WHO has confirmed a total of 581 cases, of which 571 are from China. Cases of the pneumonia-like illness have also been reported in Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Taipei, Macau, the United States and South Korea  — with all the infected individuals having travelled to Wuhan, according to the organization.