Editorial Archive

Message from the Chief Safety Officer

1/23/20 9:09 PM

Safety Notice #1: New Coronavirus Outbreak

What is the current situation?

The Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and Toronto Public Health are actively monitoring the emergence of a new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.

Chinese health authorities identified the new coronavirus, which has resulted in at least 17 deaths in China and infected more than 600 people. There are currently 611 cases in mainland China, two in Hong Kong, one in Taiwan, three in Thailand, one in Japan, one in South Korea, two in Macao, one in Singapore, one in Saudi Arabia and one in the United States. The Philippines, Canada and Scotland are monitoring suspect cases.

The outbreak in Wuhan, China has been linked to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting a possible zoonotic (animal to human) origin to the outbreak. Officials in China have confirmed that the infection can spread between humans. The market has been closed since January 1, 2020 for cleaning and disinfection. Authorities in China have enforced a partial lockdown in the central city of Wuhan, as well as nearby Huanggang and Ezhou, as authorities battle to contain the outbreak.

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

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

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.

What is the TTC doing?

The TTC is closely monitoring the situation and has reached out to its partners at Toronto Public Health. The TTC has a corporate pandemic plan and efforts are underway to ensure that the plan meets current operational needs.

Currently, Toronto Public Health is not aware of any confirmed cases in Canada. Toronto Public Health has indicated that the risk to city employees and Toronto residents remains low. At this time, they do not recommend any changes to routine infection prevention and control policies for City division work sites, including the TTC.

What general precautions should I be taking at this time?

The precautions at this time are no different than those recommended during any cold and flu season. If you have not already done so, get your flu shot. The flu shot is your best defense against getting the seasonal flu. However, there is currently no vaccine available to protect against this new virus. If you are sick and have a fever, stay home. If you have specific concerns about your health, contact Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000.

See attached guideline and associated posters on how to prevent getting a cold and the flu.

Cover Your Cough
Hand Washing
Hand Sanitizing
How to Prevent Getting a Cold and the Flu


If you have any questions, please contact the Occupational Hygiene and Environment Section.

Betty Hasserjian
Chief Safety Officer (acting)
January 23, 2020

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