The British Columbia Pharmacy Association has issued a statement informing people how to stay healthy during the coronavirus outbreak.

B.C. has five confirmed cases of coronavirus (officially nCoV or COVID-19), including one in the Interior Health Authority diagnosed last week.

The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies coronaviruses as, “a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.”

Ensure your vaccinations are up to date, including your flu shot. While there is some level of panic surrounding the new illness, more people in BC are currently infected with the flu and a recent outbreak of measles than with COVID-19.

Avoid contact with people who are ill, and limit contact with others if you are ill. Provincial health authorities have recommended a 14-day self-isolation for anyone who has recently visited, or been in contact with those who have visited, the Hubei province in China.

If you want to wear a mask to limit the spread of infection or reduce your risk of contracting the illness, ensure you are following the WHO’s instructions on proper use and disposal of masks, which should be the N95 respirator style. A regular dust or surgical mask does not offer adequate protection.

If you are worried that you have been exposed to COVID-19, and you are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, breathing difficulties and shortness of breath, contact your primary care provider or local public health office for instruction.

BC Pharmacy Association’s Director of Pharmacy Practice Support Bryce Wong has said that the most effective way to stop the spread of the virus is to follow basic hygiene protocols. “Remember that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. This basic action can help prevent getting not just the new coronavirus, but more common infections going around like the cold and flu.”