Quebec has its first presumptive case of COVID-19

MONTREAL — Quebec has its first presumptive case of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that originated in China, Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann announced on Thursday.

A woman in the Montreal area, who had recently returned from Iran, likely has the disease. She went to a Montreal-area clinic earlier this week where staff followed the proper protocols, the minister said at a late evening press conference. Quebec public health officials have tested her, and she is positive, though a national laboratory in Winnipeg will have to confirm the result.

But the case appears to be relatively mild. The woman who may have the disease has been allowed to go home, where she is in isolation. She likely has not worked, taken public transit and has had limited contact with people since her arrival from Iran, health officials said. 

“There is no need to worry,” McCann added. “All measures are being taken to protect the population.”

Quebec health officials are currently tracking down anyone who may have come into contact with the woman. Her immediate family has already been placed in isolation, they said. 

If the laboratory confirms the case of coronavirus, it will be the 14th in Canada. Six cases have been confirmed in Ontario, seven in BC. Test results are expected by Sunday.

On Wednesday, the international spread of the virus to countries like Italy and Iran prompted Quebec to add five countries to a watch list for travellers and begin testing more people for the disease. The patient in Quebec had recently flown back from Iran, via Doha, Qatar, health officials said. There are currently about 250 confirmed cases in Iran, though global health authorities believe the spread of the disease may be more extensive in that country.

Officials are currently testing 21 other people in Quebec who are under investigation for COVID-19. Dozens of people have so far been tested for the disease, and all of them have come back negative — apart from Thursday’s case.

Health officials had warned that the disease’s spread to Quebec was inevitable, but that its overall risk to the population is low. Despite that, fear of the virus’s spread has caused citizens to hoard respiratory masks against the suggestions of authorities, cancel travel plans and selloff stocks. 

More than 80,000 people have contracted the disease globally; almost 3000 have died. 

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