NCCID Disease Debriefs provide Canadian public health practitioners and clinicians with up-to-date reviews of essential information on prominent infectious diseases for Canadian public health practice. Information is gathered from key sources including the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
This Disease Debrief provides quick links for public health and practitioner use.
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus is a global epidemic causing a public health emergency of international concern as announced by the World Health Organization (WHO, January 30th 2020). It is a new strain of the virus that has never been previously identified in humans.
Government of Canada – Novel Coronavirus infection: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) (English and French)
World Health Organization – Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) (English & French)
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) (available in English only)
Signs & symptoms
The symptoms of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection can resemble a cold or flu. These can range from mild symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, headache, and general fatigue to more severe such as acute respiratory distress, bilateral pneumonia, sepsis and death. This virus has a rather long incubation period with the signs and symptoms taking up to 2 weeks to appear after exposure to the virus. However, symptoms can appear in as short of a time as two days after exposure.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – 2019 Novel Coronavirus-Symptoms (available in English only)
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (available in English only)
Like SARS and MERS-CoV coronaviruses, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus initially spread from animals to humans and established human-to-human transmission afterward. There is not currently enough epidemiological information to determine how easily and sustainably this virus spreads between people. Researchers are actively looking at this. The virus seems to be transmitted mainly via respiratory droplets when people sneeze, cough, or exhale. At this stage, we know that the virus can be transmitted as soon as those infected show (flu-like) symptoms. There are still uncertainties as to whether mild or asymptomatic cases can transmit the virus. With most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-How 2019 Novel Coronavirus spreads (available in English only)
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control – Q & A on Novel Coronavirus (available in English only)
Laboratory diagnostics and reporting
In Canada, PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) can identify 2019-nCoV and is the only place of conclusive diagnosis. In each province, provincial public health labs (PHL) initiate testing and coordinates further testing with NML as required. Detailed protocols for microbiological investigations of severe acute respiratory infections are available. They serve as a reference for laboratory diagnosis and testing and specimen transport and shipment of this Novel Coronavirus.
National case definitions
To aid in early detection and containment and to characterize the clinical and epidemiologic features of 2019-nCoV, Public Health of Canada established a national case definition. Surveillance case definitions are provided for standardized case classification and reporting to the Public Health Agency of Canada. They are based on the current level of epidemiological evidence, uncertainty, and public health response goals. They are subject to change as new information becomes available.
Please refer to the document below to obtain information for persons under investigation (PUI), probable and confirmed case definitions, and exposure criteria and mechanism of reporting:
For additional information:
Infection prevention and control
The Government of Canada published interim guidance for acute healthcare settings. The Public Health Agency of Canada (the Agency) develops infection prevention and control (IPC) guidelines to provide evidence-based recommendations to complement provincial/territorial public health efforts in monitoring, preventing, and controlling healthcare-associated infections. Please read in conjunction with relevant provincial, territorial and local legislation, regulations, and policies. Currently available scientific evidence and expert opinion informs guidance and is subject to change as new information on transmissibility and epidemiology becomes available.
There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human Coronavirus infection.
For additional information outside of Canada
CDC – Interim infection prevention and control recommendations for patients with confirmed 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) or person under investigation for 2019-nCoV in healthcare settings (available in English only)
Canada’s response and risks to Canadians
PHAC has activated the Health Portfolio Operations Centre to support effective coordination of federal, provincial and territorial preparedness and response to the emergence of 2019-nCoV. PHAC has also published the F/P/T public health repose plan for biological events, which you can reference for more information.
PHAC has assessed the public health risk associated with 2019-nCoV as low for Canada. Public health risk is continually reassessed as new information becomes available. Overall, the risk to Canadian travelers abroad is low.
Travel Advisory for Canadians
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) issued a Travel Health Notice level 3, outlining the potential dangers to Canadian travellers and the Canadian public. Non-essential travel to areas of the epicentre of the 2019-nCoV, in China is not recommended. The Government of Canada also issued guidelines for travellers asking those who were in Hubei province in the last 14 days to limit contact with others for a total of 14 days from the date they left Hubei. They also ask that they contact the local public health authority in your province or territory within 24 hours of arriving in Canada.