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Coronavirus rumours are everywhere. Officials warn they can lead to discrimination.
VANCOUVER -- When it comes to the Wuhan coronavirus, there are more rumours spreading in British Columbia than suspected infections.
Local health officials announced the province's first – and so far only – presumptive case of the disease on Tuesday, but murmurs about infections in New Westminster, Richmond, Burnaby and beyond were already circulating on social media days earlier.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who helped fight Toronto's SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, said unverified rumours don't help anyone, and can actually do some harm.
"These rumours can lead to discrimination, inappropriate discrimination against people," she said. "And I think we need to take all those rumours with a grain of salt and recognize that they are just that – rumours."
While distrust in public institutions has become increasingly common on social media, Henry said health officials remain the best source of trustworthy information on the coronavirus. She promised the B.C. government will keep the public abreast of all development regarding the disease and its spread.
"We are very much open here," she said. "We will tell you, as we have today, immediately if we know that somebody is positive for this coronavirus. We are assessing a variety of people on an ongoing basis every day in this province, and that is expected to last for the next few weeks."
One recurring rumour is that the coronavirus can spread before people show symptoms. Henry said health officials around the world are tracing the contacts that confirmed coronavirus patients had leading up to the development of their symptoms, and there's no evidence that "asymptomatic shedding" is taking place.
"That's reassuring to us, and that's certainly in line with other coronavirus infections that we've seen in the past like SARS," Henry said.
B.C.'s single presumptive coronavirus patient is a man in his 40s who recently travelled to Wuhan. He apparently didn't exhibit any symptoms during his flight back, only once he had returned home.
Henry said the man is well enough that he "does not need hospitalization," but is being kept in isolation at his own residence.
Coronavirus symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever and a general feeling of being unwell. Officials said anyone who believes they may have been infected should contact their doctor, a local public health office or the province's free health information and advice line at 811.
More information on the Canadian government's response to the Wuhan outbreak is available on the Health Canada website.