Toronto Public Health is monitoring one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Toronto. The risk to our community remains low. Learn how Toronto Public Health is responding to COVID-19 in Toronto. Find out how to protect yourself, what to do if you’re sick after you travel and how to recognize possible symptoms.

Last updated on February 20, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. EST.

Current situation

Toronto Public Health is monitoring one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in an individual who recently travelled to Wuhan. The person has been in self-isolation since returning to Toronto. Toronto Public Health continues to monitor the situation and provide updates. The risk to Toronto residents remains low.

On December 31, 2019, cases of undiagnosed viral pneumonia were first reported by health authorities in Wuhan, China. The cause has now been confirmed as a new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, which has not previously been identified in humans.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that circulate in animals including humans and may cause illness in them. Human coronaviruses are common and can range from mild illnesses such as the common cold, to severe illnesses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS CoV).

Also available in: Simplified Chinese | French

Also available in: Simplified Chinese | French

As of February 20, 2020, Toronto Public Health (TPH) is monitoring one  confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in a resident who recently returned from Wuhan, China. This individual has been in self-isolation.

The risk to Toronto residents remains low. Toronto Public Health continues to actively monitor the situation in collaboration with provincial and national health agencies, and stakeholders that include local hospitals, airports and community agencies.

Also available in: Simplified Chinese | French

A novel coronavirus causing pneumonia has been detected in Wuhan, China. Symptoms range from common to severe respiratory illnesses and include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pneumonia, kidney failure and death in severe cases

If you have traveled to China and develop symptoms of 2019 novel coronavirus infection, avoid contact with others and follow-up with your health care professional.

Also available in: Simplified Chinese | French

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Prevention measures include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill
  • Stay home when you are ill
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands
  • If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

Also available in: Simplified Chinese | French

Residents who have returned from recent international travel and become ill with respiratory signs and symptoms such as a cough and fever are reminded to report their travel history to any health professional, or any emergency room, when they visit.

If symptoms of an existing medical condition worsen while travelling, and you are still sick when you return to Canada:

  • Tell a flight attendant or a border services officer when you arrive so they can decide whether you need further medical assessment

If you are sick after you return to Canada:

  • See a health care provider and tell them the countries you visited, and if you received medical care (for example, blood transfusions, injections, dental care or surgery)

If you were sick while you were away:

  • See a health care provider and tell them the countries you visited, and if you received medical care (for example, blood transfusions, injections, dental care or surgery)
  • Tell a flight attendant or a border services officer when you arrive. They will decide whether you need further medical assessment.

If you are travelling to another country:

Also available in: Simplified Chinese | French

There are no specific treatments for coronaviruses, and there is no vaccine that protects against coronaviruses. Most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own.

If symptoms feel worse than a standard cold, see your health care practitioner. They can relieve symptoms by prescribing a pain or fever medication.

You should also:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Get rest and sleep as much as possible
  • Try a humidifier or a hot shower to help with a sore throat or cough

Also available in: Simplified Chinese | French

Coronavirus infections are diagnosed by a health care provider based on symptoms and laboratory tests. Travel history is also important. There is a specific test for COVID-19 to confirm the infection if it is suspected.

Testing is being conducted at the Public Health Ontario Laboratory in Toronto, which is working collaboratively with the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Also available in: Simplified Chinese | French

Q1. What is a coronavirus? What is the 2019 novel coronavirus?

A1. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that circulate both in humans and animals. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illness, similar to the common cold and spread easily between people. There are however, strains of coronaviruses that have spread from animals to humans which have caused more severe illness in humans in the past, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). These tend to have more difficulty spreading from person to person.

Your risk of severe disease may be higher if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case for:

  • older people
  • people with chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer, heart, renal or chronic lung disease

On December 31, 2019, Chinese health authorities identified a new (or novel) coronavirus (referred to as COVID-19) through a series of reported cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China.

It is thought that this new coronavirus originated in animals.

Q2. What are the symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus?

A2. Symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus include mild to severe illness consisting of fever, cough and difficulty breathing (shortness of breath).

Q3. Can the 2019 novel coronavirus be spread from person-to-person?

A3. Coronaviruses can spread through droplets when a person who has the virus coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu and other respiratory illnesses are spread.

Some viruses are highly contagious, while other viruses are less so. It’s not clear yet how easily the 2019 novel coronavirus spreads from person-to-person.

Q4. How soon after being exposed to the 2019 novel coronavirus would symptoms occur?

A4. The World Health Organization advises that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 10 to 14 days after contracting the 2019 novel coronavirus. This time period may also be refined as new information comes out.

Q5. How is the 2019 novel coronavirus diagnosed?

A5. It is diagnosed by a healthcare provider based on symptoms and laboratory tests. Travel history is also important.

Q6. What can members of the public do to protect themselves?

A6. In general, everyday preventive actions can help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Get a yearly flu vaccination, available from clinics and pharmacies as this is the best way to prevent influenza infection
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and share your recent travel history with your health care provider

In addition, workplaces should follow any routine infection prevention and control policies and procedures set out by their company or organization

Q7. Is there treatment for the 2019 novel coronavirus?

A7. Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment for the 2019 novel coronavirus. However, many of the symptoms can be treated and therefore treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition.

Q8. Is there a vaccine for the 2019 novel coronavirus?

A8. There are no specific treatments for coronaviruses, and there is no vaccine that protects against coronaviruses. Most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own.

If symptoms feel worse than a standard cold, see your health care practitioner. They can relieve symptoms by prescribing a pain or fever medication.

You should also:

  • drink plenty of fluids
  • get rest and sleep as much as possible
  • try a humidifier or a hot shower to help with a sore throat or cough

Q9. Are there any confirmed cases in Toronto?

A9. As of February 20, 2020 there were two confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We have investigated these cases and completed contact tracing.

Q10. What is Toronto Public Health doing in response to this situation?

A10. Toronto Public Health continues to actively monitor this situation in collaboration with our provincial and national health colleagues, and stakeholders, including local hospitals, airports and community agencies.

Cases and suspected cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus are now reportable to local health authorities under the provincial Health Protection and Promotion Act. As we are notified of potential cases, we are immediately following up directly with these individuals to let them know.

We are informing these people of the potential health risk, and providing education and instruction on when and how to seek medical care, if that becomes necessary. This work is part of routine public health follow-up of a case of an infectious disease.

Q11. What are Canadian public health officials doing in response to this situation?

A11. The Public Health Agency of Canada is actively monitoring the 2019 novel coronavirus situation. They are in close contact with the World Health Organization to assess any potential risk to Canadians.

In addition to Canada’s standard measures to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases in Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada are implementing additional measures. These include messaging on arrival screens at the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver international airports, reminding travelers to inform a Border Services Officer if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms, and an additional health screening question was added to electronic kiosks.

Canada has no direct flights from Wuhan, and the volume of travelers arriving indirectly from Wuhan is low. The Government of Canada, provinces and territories have multiple systems in place to identify, prevent and control the spread of serious infectious diseases into and within Canada.

Q12. What measures are being taken at the Canadian border?

A12. Canada has a number of standard border measures in place to prevent communicable diseases from being introduced to or spreading in Canada.

Measures have been implemented including messaging on arrivals screens at the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver international airports reminding travelers from Wuhan to inform a Border Services Officer if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms. In addition, a health screening question has been added to electronic kiosks.

Q13. What is the overall risk for getting the 2019 novel coronavirus while in Canada?

A13. The risk to our community remains low. The Public Health Agency of Canada is continuing to collaborate with partners internationally as well as to share information and work with federal, provincial and territorial partners and public health authorities and to maintain Canada’s preparedness to rapidly identify, treat and prevent the spread of this emerging disease.

Q14. What is the risk to Canadians travelling to China? Is there any advice for travellers related to the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak?

A14. No matter where Canadians plan to travel, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that they consult travel.gc.ca, which is the Government of Canada’s official source of destination-specific travel information. It provides important advice to help travelers make informed decisions and travel safely while abroad. As this is a rapidly evolving situation, travelers should check the website and consult with their health care provider prior to travelling to China.

Q15. What should I do if I travelled to Hubei Province, China and develop symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus infection?

A15. If you have travelled to Hubei Province, China and develop symptoms of 2019 novel coronavirus, avoid contact with others (e.g., self-isolate) and follow up with your health care provider as soon as possible.

Call your healthcare provider prior to your visit and let them know about your travel history and symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing) so that they can make special arrangements to see you quickly, provide testing, and ensure that they use proper infection control measures.

During your visit, tell your healthcare provider:

  • Your symptoms
  • Where you have been travelling (and dates of travel) or living
  • If you have had direct contact with animals (e.g., visited a live animal market)
  • If you have had close contact with a sick person, especially if they have had fever, cough or difficulty breathing

Q16. When will I need to self-isolate/stay at home?

A16. You will need to stay home and self-isolate if:

  • You have a lab-confirmed 2019 novel coronavirus infection, do not require hospitalization, and a medical practitioner has indicated that you can recover at home.
  • You are being assessed for the 2019 novel coronavirus infection by a healthcare provider.
  • You have traveled from Hubei Province, China, within the past 14 days
  • You are a returning traveler from mainland China and develop respiratory symptoms that include: fever, cough, difficulty breathing within 14 days of travel. Please promptly self-isolate and inform your healthcare provider, or your local public health department.

Q17. I was on China Southern Airline flight CZ311 that landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport on January 22 around 4:00pm (was scheduled for 4:30pm arrival), I am well. What should I do?

A17. Passengers who sat in rows 5 to 11 on this flight should contact Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600.

Other passengers should watch for signs and symptoms of the novel coronavirus (see question 2). If they begin to have signs and symptoms they should stay home while ill. If they feel that they require medical attention, they should tell any health care provider and the paramedics that they have recently travelled.

Q18. Should I wear a mask to protect myself against the novel coronavirus?

A18. For general, day-to-day activities, there is no need to wear a surgical or N95 mask.

Toronto Public Health advises residents to take the usual measures to reduce the risk of influenza and other respiratory infections:

  • Get a yearly flu vaccination, available from clinics and pharmacies as this is the best way to prevent influenza infection
  • Clean your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze
  • If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm
  • Stay at home if you are sick.

Toronto Public Health does not recommend that individuals incur out of pocket expenses for items that are not recommended according to health evidence.

Q19. Why is Toronto Public Health only contacting China Southern Airlines flight CZ311 passengers who were seated within 10 metres or three rows of the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus?

A19. Toronto Public Health follows the expert opinion and advice provided from the Ministry of Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada. When we have suspected or confirmed cases of novel coronavirus that travelled while symptomatic on air transportation, regardless of the duration of their travel, this advice states that close contacts include passengers seated in the same row as the person who was infected with the novel coronavirus, passengers in the three rows in front and three rows behind them, all crew members, passengers who provided care for this person on board the aircraft, and passengers with more than 15 minutes of face to face contact with this person, or who were in contact with this person’s secretions.

It is important to note that while there is still there is still a lot that is not known about the newly emerged novel coronavirus and how it spreads, coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Health evidence states that respiratory droplets do not spread more than two metres. In addition, both people on China Southern Airlines flight CZ311 were masked for the duration of the flight and transport home. This reduced the risk of droplet transmission.

Q20. Are there any neighbourhoods or communities in Toronto that should be avoided due to the 2019 novel coronavirus?

A20. There are no Toronto neighbourhoods or communities that pose a risk for contracting the 2019 novel coronavirus. Some residents may believe that they should avoid Chinese neighbourhoods, restaurants, markets and other businesses in Toronto because the first reported cases of the virus were in Wuhan, China. Scientific evidence does not support the need for this type of avoidance. Fearing specific neighbourhoods and communities in our city contributes to stigma and discrimination which are hurtful and unhelpful. The best way to protect yourself is through the general prevention strategies listed in A6.

Q21. What should employers do if an employee is returning to work after travelling to China?

A21. The risk of 2019 novel coronavirus remains low for those who live and work in Toronto. People returning to Canada will be given information at airports of entry based on where they traveled. Employees who visited Hubei Province can attend work If they left Hubei more than 14 days ago. There are no additional precautions staff need to take if an employee is returning from mainland China. In general, the everyday preventive actions listed in A6 can help reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. Employees who have been in Hubei Province within 14 days will be advised by Toronto Public Health to not attend work and to self-isolate during this 14 day period.

Employers in Ontario are legally required to observe and uphold the Ontario Human Rights Code. On January 28, 2020, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a statement indicating that: “discriminatory action against any persons or communities because of an association with the Wuhan novel coronavirus, perceived or otherwise, is prohibited by the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

Employees returning from China should not be subject to any exclusion or other adverse treatment as this may constitute discrimination under the Code. Those who have recently travelled to China and develop symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus (fever, cough and difficulty breathing) are asked to avoid contact with others and follow-up with their health care provider.

Workers who believe that they are being discriminated against can contact their union, human resources department and/or the Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre at 1-866-625-5179.

Q22. To protect the school population from the 2019 novel coronavirus, should students who recently returned from China be asked to stay home from school?

A22. The risk of 2019 novel coronavirus remains low in Toronto. There is no requirement to restrict school attendance for students who recently returned from China other than recent return from Hubei Province. Students who have recently returned from the Province of Hubei will be asked by Toronto Public Health to stay home and self isolate as a precaution for 14 days from the time they were in Hubei.

On January 28, 2020, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a statement on asking all students who have returned from China to stay home from school. According to the Commission, “discriminatory action against any persons or communities because of an association with the Wuhan novel coronavirus, perceived or otherwise, is prohibited by the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

There are no additional precautions schools need to take if a student is returning from China. In general, the everyday preventive actions listed in A6 can help reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.

Students who have recently travelled to China and develop symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus (fever, cough and difficulty breathing) are asked to avoid contact with others and follow-up with their health care provider.