The Ministry of Health hosted a media conference in combination with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver Tuesday morning, to provide a briefing of protocols and emergency management response to the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

However, at the conference, Provincial Health Officer and Co-Chair of the provincial coordinating committee for the virus, Dr. Bonnie Henry informed media representatives that the public health lab had confirmed a case of 2019-nCoV in a B.C. citizen residing in the Vancouver area.

“The person is a male in his forties and a resident in the Vancouver Coastal Health region,” said Henry. “He travels regularly to China for work, and was in Wuhan city on his most recent trip. He returned to Vancouver last week and had an onset of symptoms after his return.

“On Sunday, Jan. 26, he followed public health messaging, contacted a primary health-care provider to notify them that he had travelled to Wuhan city, was experiencing symptoms and would be coming for assessment and care,” Henry said.

“Following established protocols, the primary-care provider notified the Vancouver Coastal Health medical health officer and administered the diagnostic test.

The test came back positive on the night of Jan. 27. As of that morning, there had not been a case of the illness confirmed outside of Ontario in Canada.

As a matter of protocol, tests will also be sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Results are expected back within 48 hours, and from there the man will be deemed officially positive.

The man is the first confirmed case in British Columbia, and the third in Canada after a Toronto man and his wife tested positive for the illness.

Henry said that authorities in B.C. are being diligent in screening for the virus, and that the federal government will be expanding the area of concern beyond Wuhan City. Currently, anyone coming to B.C. who has travelled anywhere in China is being reported to public health and given a detailed assessment. Tests have been given to a small number of people out of what Henry calls “an abundance of caution”, and all but the one Vancouver case have been negative.

Minister of Health Adrian Dix has issued a statement assuring the public that the risk to other British Columbians remains low.

“The risk of spread of this virus within British Columbia remains low at this time. All necessary precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of infection. We have multiple systems in place to prepare for, detect and respond, in order to prevent the spread of serious infectious diseases in the province.

“It is not necessary for the general public to take special precautions beyond the usual measures recommended to prevent other common respiratory viruses during the winter period. Regular handwashing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow sleeve, disposing of tissues appropriately and avoiding contact with sick people are important ways to prevent the spread of respiratory illness generally.”

The Vancouver man remains in isolation at his home and is in regular contact with public health officials, who are also monitoring a small number of his close contacts. As he was not symptomatic on his return flight from China it is not believed that those who were in contact with him are now at risk. 

“This is a gentlemen who was well aware of what was going on in China and when he returned he went home and he voluntarily self-isolated,” said Henry. “So he had not travelled outside his home until he sought medical attention, and he did that with all the appropriate precautions.”