A Bradford woman in her 40s was among the cases to test positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.
She was diagnosed at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, and is now self-isolating at home. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has issued assurances that there was no contact that might pose the risk of community transmission.
The woman had a recent history of travel to Ecuador.
Travel history is now one of the biggest red flags for COVID-19. It reflects how far the novel coronavirus has spread and the potential for returning travellers to bring the virus back to their communities.
That’s why all returning travellers – not just those from identified hot spots in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Iran or Italy, but any out-of-country destination, including the U.S. - are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
Why the two-week period? COVID-19, like another coronavirus MERS, has a lengthy incubation period. While the median is about five days, the range has been from two to 14 days before signs of the disease appear.
In comparison, SARS had a median incubation period of 4-5 days, with a range of 2 to 10 days.
Not everyone will develop symptoms, even if positive for COVID-19. The majority who test positive may have no or mild symptoms, similar to flu, but in vulnerable populations, like the elderly, those with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions such as diabetes, serious complications can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure, even death.
The Government of Canada has issued a global travel advisory, asking all residents to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada at this time – and for those currently abroad, to return.
More and more countries have put travel or border restrictions and quarantines in place. Since changes may be announced with no advance warning, air traffic suspended and borders closed, the federal government recommends returning to Canada as quickly as possible.
Those who cannot avoid travel or who are already outside of Canada are urged to ensure that they have sufficient financial and medical resources, in case their return is delayed. Travellers should also check with their insurer, to see if they are covered for medical treatment if they become ill with COVID-19.
Once at home and in self-isolation, returning travellers are asked to monitor for symptoms which include a fever of 38 C or more, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
The Ontario Ministry of Health offers an online self-assessment tool (click here). Anyone with symptoms is asked to make arrangements to visit an assessment centre for testing.
In most cases, victims of COVID-19 will recover on their own. Advice is to drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest and sleep, and take a hot shower or use a humidifier to relieve a sore throat.
If symptoms become more severe, call 911, and advise of travel history and symptoms.
The province posts a daily list of new and presumptive COVID-19 cases. On March 16, for example, 31 new cases were listed – 11 from the Toronto area, and 5 in York Region. There were no new cases registered in Simcoe Muskoka.