2019 Novel Coronavirus

The media has ensured that we’re all concerned about 2019 Novel Coronavirus Infection (2019-n-CoV). In the 40 years I have been a member of the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, St. Michael’s Hospital and the University Health Network, I have never seen anything like the coverage n-CoV is garnering. Having advised many companies during SARS, flu pandemics, ebola and a host of other health crises, I have never been more confident in global public health systems’ ability to effectively manage n-CoV.

Since n-CoV bbegan in Wuhan, the Chinese government has been cooperative and transparent. Whoever would have thought it conceivable, or for that matter possible to quarantine more than 35 million people? It’s heartening to see that the ultimate health and safety of the world has taken priority over the billions of dollars lost, by the international effort, especially by China in containing this potentially devastating infection. In short order it will become apparent whether the Chinese gamble to limit freedom of movement will be successful in having the virus burn itself out or will backfire resulting in civil disobedience when personal incomes, food, water and other necessities are in short supply.

What I did not have during SARS was confidence in public health. Their communications lacked transparency and did not instill trust. The generation of today’s public health people, for at least the time being, gives me the feeling that we are better organized, that widespread infection won’t occur and that death rates will not surpass what we’d normally see with seasonal influenzas.

Over the last thirty years I have earned a reputation for providing carefully chosen unbiased information that can be relied on. People rely on doctors that they trust because catching a disease that can result in death is frightening. My advice has always been not to worry until someone you trust tells you to worry. So, I’ll tell you when you need to wear a mask, not take public transportation, not leave the house and stop going to work. We want all of you to remain as healthy as possible and that can only be accomplished by providing reliable advice.

Today’s advice is…

You are more likely to be infected by influenza and other seasonal viruses than n-CoV. Bearing in mind that:

  • Wash your hands often using alcohol hand sanitizer or soap and water./li>
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid contact with people who appear unwell. If possible, keep 2 meters (6 feet) away from people with coughs, difficulty breathing or fever.
  • Coughing into a facial tissue is preferable to your elbow since we touch our arms frequently and that could result in virus on our hands that could be spread. Place used tissues in the garbage, not in your pocket or purse.
  • If you have a cough, difficulty breathing and fever, even though the likely cause is NOT n-CoV, stay at home until you feel able to work.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • There is NO need for you to wear any kind of face mask unless you are specifically advised to do so by a doctor, nurse or Public Health.

Contact with a repatriated traveler:

  • If you or anyone you know has travelled in China on or after December 1, 2019 and has become ill within 2 weeks of leaving, medical attention should be obtained immediately – same day, as soon as possible.
  • This can be done by calling 911 and explaining the circumstances. Travel to a facility that can rule out n-CoV. This is best carried out by health care workers familiar with necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Do not simply show up at your doctor’s office. If you do go to Emergency be certain to give them your history as soon as you are able.

Travel to high risk locations:

HBC Health and Safety, Human Resources and I will keep you up to date on a weekly basis and with breaking news. If you have any specific questions, please email: info@cbml.ca

Howard Seiden MD, MSc, FCFP, FIAIME
President, Seiden Health
Adjunct Professor
Department of Family & Community Medicine
Faculty of Medicine,
University of Toronto