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Alberta woman on cruise ship first presumptive case of new coronavirus

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EDMONTON — Alberta's first presumptive case of the novel coronavirus involves a woman from the southern part of the province who was on a cruise ship that is being held for testing off the coast of California.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said it appears the woman who is in her 50s contracted COVID-19 while on board the Grand Princess cruise ship.

The woman returned to Alberta on Feb. 21 and isolated herself at her home in the Calgary region on Feb. 28.

Provincial health officials detected the case on Thursday, although it may take a few days for the national laboratory in Winnipeg to confirm it as the new strain of coronavirus that first appeared in China last year, Hinshaw said.

The patient is expected to make a full recovery, Hinshaw added.

"Public health officials are reaching out to all individuals who may have been in contact with this person, assessing their health and instructing them to stay at home for 14 days after their last contact with this person."

Hinshaw said other Albertans were also on the voyage, and officials are trying to get a list of passengers to contact.

"I would like to ask anyone in Alberta who was on board the Grand Princess cruise ship in the last two weeks to please stay at home until 14 days have passed since they left the cruise, even if they are feeling well."

Global Affairs Canada has said 235 Canadians were on the ship's passenger manifest. Princess Cruises said there are currently 237 Canadians onboard — 230 passengers and seven crew members.

Previous passengers have tested positive for COVID-19 and one, a man from California, has died.

The ship with 3,500 on board was ordered Thursday to anchor off the coast of California until all can be tested.

Canadian health officials have so far confirmed cases of COVID-19 in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, with several new cases announced Thursday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended Canada's decision not to close its borders to foreign nationals coming from regions where the outbreak is spreading.

He said "knee-jerk reaction" to the respiratory disease will not keep people safe.

Hinshaw said the risk of catching the virus in Alberta is still considered low.

"We have been preparing for this since the virus first emerged in January."

She said people should have a low threshold for staying home if they don't feel well.

"I have been saying for weeks that any Albertan who's feeling ill with a fever and cough, whether or not they've travelled, I ask them to stay home if they're feeling sick.

"Because whether they have influenza or whether they've travelled and potentially been exposed to novel coronavirus, we don't want to spread any of those viruses in our communities."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2020.

— With files from The Associated Press

 

The Canadian Press