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Coronavirus

 

Memorandum

February 6, 2020


Dear Alberta school staff and parents/guardians of school children,

Subject: Novel coronavirus

I am writing to give you updated information on the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) – a new virus
that causes respiratory illness.

We know that Albertans, including school staff and parents, are concerned about this particular
coronavirus. It is important to remember that the current risk to Albertans is low. There are no
confirmed or probable cases of the 2019-nCoV in Alberta at this time.

Because this is a new virus, information can change as we learn more. For the most up to date
information, go to the Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services websites:
• www.alberta.ca/coronavirus
• www.ahs.ca/ncov

Our knowledge of the 2019-nCoV continues to grow as new information becomes available, and this new
evidence informs adjustments to our public health advice and actions. Although there is uncertainty
on the issue of “asymptomatic transmission” (if an infected person can spread the virus before they
get sick and start coughing, etc.), it is unlikely to contribute much to the spread of the virus.
The highest risk of virus spread would be from a person who has symptoms like fever and cough.

Alberta and other provinces are providing advice based on the best current evidence and guidance
from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Please read the following information for recommendations
that apply to you and your family.

Have you or your family been in Hubei province, China in the last 14 days?
If yes, we recommend the following:

- It is best for anyone who traveled from Hubei to self-isolate (stay at home, not going to
school, work, or social gatherings), even if you are feeling well, until 14 days have passed from
your last visit to Hubei province. See the information sheet on self-isolation for details.
- This advice is focused on travelers returning from Hubei province as the risk of community
transmission is currently the highest in this part of China.
- You should also closely watch for symptoms like fever, cough, or difficulty breathing in any
family member who has been in Hubei province in the last 14 days, and call Health Link 811 if any
of these symptoms begin.

Have you or your family returned from any other parts of mainland China (outside Hubei province) in
the last 14 days?

If yes, we recommend the following:


- Anyone who traveled to mainland China in the last 14 days should monitor themselves daily for
symptoms like fever or cough (with students getting help from their parents) up to 14 days after
their last visit in China.
- If, while you or your family members were in mainland China, you or your family members were
in contact with someone who was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, or were in a health care
facility, please call Health Link 811 to talk about your possible exposure and to get information
on any other measures you may wish to take.
- Although the most likely cause of symptoms like fever or cough is a common virus, like
influenza, if someone who traveled to mainland China in the last 14 days feels sick, they should
stay home and away from others, and Health Link 811 should be called to talk about any need for
testing and follow up.

We are still in influenza season in Alberta, so to minimize spread of any respiratory virus, for
all families we recommend the following:
- Make sure everyone in your household washes their hands with soap and water often. If soap
and water are not readily available, you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if hands are not
visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it in a garbage bin lined with a plastic bag.
Wash your hands immediately after that. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your
sleeve.
- Stay home if you’re sick. If your kids are sick, keep them home from school.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces that are used often and shared by everyone in your home.
- Travelers should always check for current travel notices on the Government of Canada website
prior to travel.

Good hygiene practices that help prevent colds and influenza will also reduce the risk of exposure
to 2019-nCoV. Masks can be very important in certain situations. When sick, wearing a mask helps
prevents us from passing on illnesses to other people. That is why we ask people who have a cough
or respiratory symptoms to wear a mask and clean their hands when visiting an emergency department
or clinic. If you are healthy, medical masks are not recommended as they don't provide full
protection and can create a false sense of security.

We ask that you do not make assumptions about the risk of others having novel coronavirus based on
their ethnicity or country of origin. Alberta has no confirmed or probable cases of 2019-nCoV and
the current risk of exposure in Alberta is extremely low. If you have further questions, call
Health Link 811.

It is natural that we worry about new threats to our health, and the best thing you can do if you
are worried is to get information from reliable sources such as Alberta Health, Alberta Health
Services, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the World Health Organization. You can also take
the preventive steps outlined above, like hand washing regularly, to reduce your risk of infection.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Yours truly,


Deena Hinshaw, BSc, MD, MPH, CCFP, FRCP Chief Medical Officer of Health

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