While Chris Hastings and Dr. Dawn Davies have been on holiday in Greece, Ontario’s highest risk of infection has doubled, from 31 to 64, and all confirmed cases are now in Toronto, the province’s chief medical officer said at a press conference this morning. (Sorry to hear about your on-site case number!) These can be interpreted in a couple of ways.
The first is that there are now six more people in hospital than Ontario’s last confirmed case in June of 2014 (but 40 people so far in Toronto). Also, the majority of reported cases are now in Toronto, and it would seem probable that Toronto has largely passed its peak. (At the same press conference, Matthew Fortner, assistant deputy minister at the ministry of health, said this peak can be tied to a tiny proportion of cases that do make it to Toronto.)
The other interpretation is that Ontario is now at a higher risk than previously believed, and the situation will likely deteriorate with the number of travelers returning from travel to affected regions. Ottawa warned people travelling to areas such as Europe or the Gulf of Guinea earlier this year, and two Ontario bylaw officers were forced to find “self-disinfecting” hand sanitizer at a public pool in Toronto this week.
One new death from coronavirus in Ottawa. Also, a new case of a newly-identified coronavirus in Eastern Ontario has been reported from Gatineau.
Nine confirmed cases in an Ottawa dental practice; a new-born is being treated in intensive care for an infection that was confirmed as the new coronavirus. More from Health Canada.
Here’s Health Canada’s latest document on the new coronavirus.
The new coronavirus is called the coronavirus haemagglutinin (HAV-1), caused by a novel bat virus, the same one that triggered the SARS outbreak in 2003. There have been six confirmed cases in Canada (one in Toronto, three in Ottawa) and 12 confirmed cases worldwide, with one of them in England. Two more coronavirus-related deaths were reported today, in the UK and Spain. The reason why we’re seeing this case now, could be due to a small increase in bat populations and a common transmission model that allows the disease to spread, as noted in a presentation at the 2011 IAPS conference, in Paris. (Gaddafi-era transition in Libya also released some bat species that had been held captive by his successors.)
In the present outbreak, two cases have been confirmed in people who were in contact with one another during an overseas business trip; one died of complications after surgery. The other is a single survivor, who is currently isolated at home for continuing symptoms.
Two other clusters of reported cases (one in Saudi Arabia and one in Qatar) have been confirmed, and an investigation is underway in both countries to see if their patients had contact with bats.
Totally unsurprising, as you likely heard in 2011 at the IAPS conference, the first patient who was infected with a new SARS-like virus in London was reported to have been in contact with bats during a hunting trip. Drs. Robert Armstrong and Stephen Streitel made the discovery that a population of bat-related coronaviruses, probably including the new coronavirus, was present in London’s botanical gardens on the eve of the Spanish flu pandemic.
It also bears noting, that there have been suggestions of contact between the new coronavirus and a different bat-type coronavirus that emerged in the Middle East a few years ago. That’s as from this 2016 NYT story.
Here’s what Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, had to say about today’s news: