New Canadian coronavirus patient never went to China, but had visited Iran

Ian Young

Canadian health authorities have announced what they called a “sentinel event” with the detection of the new coronavirus in a woman who had never travelled to China.

The woman instead had recently returned to British Columbia from Iran, which has reported just five cases of the disease. Two of those patients have died.

The infection of the woman is the sixth case detected in BC, and the ninth in Canada.

The woman in her 30s lives in the Fraser Health region outside Vancouver, provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry said.

Henry told a press conference in Victoria late on Thursday that the case was a “sentinel event”, as a possible “indicator that there’s more widespread transmission”.

Henry said an international investigation would ensue to “try to understand where the exposure occurred”. The case was “clearly a bit unusual … travel to Iran is something new [among Canadian infections]”.

The case is regarded as “presumed positive” for Covid-19 based on local testing, with samples sent to a national lab for second-stage confirmation.

The woman was in isolation at home, Henry said, and her symptoms were mild.

She was diagnosed after feeling unwell and visiting a local hospital, which Henry did not identify.

All other Canadian patients had recently travelled from China or had been in close contact with people who had done so and were also found to be infected.

In a statement, Henry and BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said: “Fraser Health is actively investigating. The [latest] patient’s close contacts will be identified and contacted by public health officials.”

The first coronavirus case detected in BC – a man who had travelled from Wuhan, the outbreak epicentre – has recovered, while the other patients are all under home isolation.

“The risk of this virus spreading within British Columbia remains low at this time,” the statement said. “We are closely monitoring the situation in Canada and abroad. We will notify the public if the measures in BC change.”

The coronavirus has infected more than 76,000 people and killed over 2,200, mostly in China, since it was identified in late December. It has spread to more than two dozen countries.

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