Quebec ready to contain spread of coronavirus should it hit province, health director says

As the newly identified strain of coronavirus captures the world's attention, Quebec's public health director says the province is ready to tackle the highly contagious disease should it make landfall here.

"The risk is still considered low, but we will stay vigilant," Dr. Horacio Arruda told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

"We think there is a possibility people come back with the disease here, in Canada or in Quebec, but we will catch it early and make sure the transmission is not sustained in the community."

He said six people who arrived in Quebec from China have been tested for the virus as a precaution. He says one of those six has already tested negative. The other five are in isolation in hospital, some in Montreal and some in Quebec City. 

Their test results should be ready in 24 to 36 hours, said Arruda, predicting they will all test negative.

The World Health Organization has yet to declare it an international emergency, but Arruda said Quebec has been keeping a close eye on the spread of the virus since it first appeared in China earlier this month.

The WHO said it would decide Thursday whether to declare a global emergency, but regardless of what it decides, Arruda said the province has all the tools in place to diagnose, treat and contain the disease. 

Quebec has experience dealing with these types of outbreaks and knows how to prevent such diseases from spreading, he said.

Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

The number of new cases has risen sharply in China, where the virus first began to spread. There have been hundreds of cases diagnosed there and 17 dead from the flu-like virus.

Officials in Wuhan — a Chinese city that is five times the size of Montreal — shut down public transit Wednesday and cancelled flights and train travel into the city.

Several countries, including the United States, have identified at least one case of the disease. All of the cases involved people from Wuhan or who had recently travelled there.