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What you need to know about COVID-19 or Coronavirus

Health officials say there are a few ways in which people infected with coronaviruses can help prevent spread of the virus, one being to sneeze into a tissue.
Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
February 28, 2020 - 6:00 PM

Although Canadian health officials continue to say the risk of contracting the latest outbreak of coronavirus is low, they are also stressing the need to be vigilant and prepared for signs of infection.

Here are some basic things to know about coronaviruses to help you prevent the contracting and spread of the latest coronavirus infection.

As well, we've provided a list of stories that include "news you can use" about COVID-19 and its impacts on your life.

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What is it?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses including the common cold. They can lead to severe conditions and some coronaviruses can spread between animals, or pass between humans and animals.

Common symptoms

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing, sore throat, headache and a general feeling of being unwell, basically manifesting the common cold.

Severe cases can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure and death.

What should I do if I suspect infection?

Consult your health care provider as soon as possible if you are worried about symptoms or have travelled to a region where severe coronaviruses are known to occur.

If you have mild cold-like symptoms, health officials encourage you to stay home while sick and avoid close contact to help protect others. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and be sure to throw used tissues in the trash and wash your hands. Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.


Several medical experts say early research indicates the new coronavirus is less deadly or contagious than other airborne illnesses.

Canada's chief public health officer has repeatedly stressed it is unlikely to be transmitted through casual contact and will most likely only be contracted by people with close, prolonged contact with an infected person.

Up to date information

For the latest information on confirmed and suspected cases, as well as deaths in Canada, go here.

Preventive methods

Coronaviruses spread through the air by coughing and sneezing, by close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands or by touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Risk can be reduced by washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your nose, mouth or eyes, and avoiding contact with people who are sick.

You should avoid crowds and try to maintain six feet of distance from other people.

Face masks are of limited value to healthy persons, but washing hands regularly is recommended.

Consult you health care provider if you are worried about symptoms or have travelled to a region where severe coronavirus are know to occur.


Right now, there are no specific treatments for people with coronavirus infection.

If you develop cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by:

  • staying home if you are sick,
  • avoiding close contact with others
  • covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you coughing or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands
  • cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces

Holding public events

Health Canada has put out some information related to mass gatherings occur in a range of public places — spiritual and cultural settings, theatres, sports arenas, festivals, conference halls —while the pandemic is a concern. 

"Mass gatherings can contribute to the transmission of respiratory pathogens, such as the virus causing the current outbreaks of COVID-19. However, mass gatherings are not homogenous and the risk must be assessed on a case-by-case basis by Public Health Authorities, event organizers and relevant planners,"  the Health Canada notice reads.

"Cancelling large events may be recommended from a public health perspective, but compliance and sustainability may be difficult and may cause significant social disruption and public resistance."

PHAC recommends conducting a risk assessment when determining the public health actions related to a mass gathering during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Decisions regarding mass gatherings can be considered on a continuum from no changes needed, to enhanced communication to attendees, to risk mitigation strategies being employed without cancelling the event, through to postponement or cancellation of the event.

Risk mitigation strategies could include:

  • reducing the number of participants or changing the venue to prevent crowding;
  • staggering arrivals and departures;
  • providing packaged refreshments instead of a buffet;
  • increasing access to handwashing stations;
  • promoting personal protective practices (hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, staying home if ill);
  • offering virtual or live-streamed activities; and
  • changing the event program to reduce high risk activities such as those that require physical contact between participants.
  • Since mass gathering events, their settings, and participants/attendees are generally unique, the advice varies regarding which measures should be implemented.   Public health authorities and event organizers must work together to assess the situation.

Reliable information

Health officials caution people against posting or spreading misinformation about the new coronavirus on social media. They direct those looking for reliable information to Health Canada's website, or the sites of the provincial health agencies, which are updated daily.

Social media companies including Facebook are working to remove false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by global and local health authorities.

If you are unsure about whether to trust the information you find online, the organization News Media Canada suggests asking these four questions: Is it a credible source? Is the perspective biased? Are other sources reporting the same story? Is the story timely?

- With files from The Canadian Press and the Government of Canada

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