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31st - Jan

Medical health officer provides advice to Sask. physicians on coronavirus

Physicians here can take a few precautions to help contain the newest strain of the novel coronavirus, should the respiratory illness spread from central China to Saskatchewan, according to Dr. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer for the Health Ministry.

In Saskatchewan at the moment, the concern is for people who have recently returned from China and who develop symptoms such as a cough, fever or shortness of breath, Dr. Shahab told the SMA. They should stay home, self-isolate and call the Health Line (811), which will connect them to public health for further assessment and testing.

“For physicians, if you receive a call from someone who says, ‘I’ve travelled to China now I have a fever or cough or shortness of breath,’ it’s really important that the patient is seen in a side room, does not sit in the waiting area, and once the person is in a side room, the patient can wear a mask if able to, and you as a physician should use proper precautions including a mask and goggles,” Dr. Shahab said.

He said it’s likely the patient has a common cold or influenza, but if an assessment suggests the presence of coronavirus, physicians can request specific testing from the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory in Regina as well as other respiratory testing. In any event, physicians should be sure to contact their local medical health officer immediately.

“The key point is that people who are symptomatic should self-isolate at home,” Dr. Shahab said. “If they require assessment and testing it should be done in a way that minimizes exposure to clinical staff and other patients in admitting areas, and similarly if they require hospitalization it should be done in way where droplet and contact precautions are applied.”

An emergency room should be alerted of any potential cases that may arrive at a hospital so that the proper triage and containment measures can be taken, he added.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus – named 2019-nCoV – an international public health emergency. As of Thursday more than 8,200 people had become infected in China, and cases of person-to-person transmission had occurred in at least five countries.

The strain 2019-nCoV is the seventh known coronavirus to cause illness in humans, with SARS CoV and MERS CoV the most serious and life-threatening of previous strains.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is gathering information and monitoring the severity of this latest strain on humans. It has issued information for health professionals at the following link:

Other government and health agencies have developed webpages to inform physicians and the public of new developments regarding coronavirus. These include:

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