Editorial Archive

Message from the Chief Safety Officer

1/27/20 12:33 PM

Safety Notice #2: New Coronavirus Outbreak

What is the current situation?

The Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and Toronto Public Health continue to monitor the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.

Currently, there are nearly 3,000 cases that have been confirmed in mainland China and more than 80 deaths (all in China).  There are also confirmed cases in Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, Vietnam and Nepal. There are two presumptive confirmed cases in Toronto, Canada in two residents (husband and wife) who recently returned from Wuhan, China.

Authorities in China have enforced either a partial or full lockdown of affected cities impacting nearly 60 million people.

Symptoms of this new coronavirus include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

All of the cases identified outside of China had visited Wuhan.

What is Toronto Public Health recommending to prevent the spread of infection?

The Medical Officer of Health for Toronto is recommending that everyone practice good infection prevention and control practices to help protect against getting sick and prevent the spread of illness. These practices, which are applicable during any cold and flu season include: getting an annual flu vaccine (available from clinics and pharmacies), washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, sneezing or coughing into your sleeve or arm if you don’t have a tissue and staying home if you are sick.

Please see Safety Notice #1 for information on How to Prevent Getting a Cold and the Flu, Hand Washing, Hand Sanitation and Covering a Cough.

Why is hand washing so important?

Hands carry and spread germs. Touching your eyes, nose or mouth without cleaning your hands or sneezing or coughing into your hands may provide an opportunity for germs to get into your body. Keeping your hands clean through good hygiene practice is one of the most important steps to avoid getting sick and spreading germs.

When performed correctly, hand hygiene is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and infections. Hand hygiene may be performed either by using soap and running water, or with alcohol-based hand rubs.

What do I do if I have recently travelled to China?

Residents who have returned from recent international travel and become ill with respiratory signs and symptoms, such as a cough and fever, should avoid contact with others except to see a health care professional. Ensure that you tell them (in advance):
> Your symptoms;
> Where you have been travelling or living;
> If you have had direct contact with animals (for example: visited a live animal market) or close contact with a sick person.

What is a coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that range from the common cold to much more serious diseases. These diseases can infect both humans and animals. The strain spreading in China is related to two other coronaviruses that have caused major outbreaks in recent years: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, also known as MERS, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.

There is currently no vaccine available to protect against this new virus.

What is TTC doing?

The TTC continues to closely monitor the situation and will take direction from Toronto Public Health regarding what precautions/controls should be implemented for its employees and customers. Toronto Public Health is working closely with provincial and federal health agencies to actively monitor the situation and respond as appropriate.

Toronto Public Health has indicated that the risk to city employees and Toronto residents remains low.

However, as an extra precaution, the TTC will begin the implementation of the disinfection of shared workspaces and public spaces using the Oxivir (hospital grade disinfectant) family of products already approved on the TTC’s WHMIS system.

Where do I get additional information?

More information about coronavirus is available at: https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/health-wellness-care/diseases-medications-vaccines/coronavirus/.

Questions?

If you have any questions, please contact the Occupational Hygiene and Environment Section at 416-393-3320. If you have any questions related to your health, please contact your family doctor or Telehealth at 1 866-797-0000.

Betty Hasserjian
Chief Safety Officer (acting)
Safety and Environment Department
January 27, 2020

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