VANCOUVER -- Public health officials announced Tuesday the first presumptive case of novel coronavirus has been detected in B.C., raising questions about how residents can protect themselves.

The patient, a 40-year-old man who regularly travels to China, is currently in isolation at home and lives in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. He had recently travelled to Wuhan city, which is considered the epicentre of the outbreak.

How do health officials test for coronavirus?

It's considered a "presumptive" case at this point because official confirmation has to be done by a second test at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, B.C.'s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a news conference Tuesday.

"Our lab here has been in contact with the Winnipeg lab but given the history of travel, the contact that this person had in Wuhan city and the symptoms they were showing, we are confident that this is truly a case of this novel coronavirus," she said.

"We have good confidence in the testing that's done here. It's done based on a genetic test that looks for three different protein areas," she said. "Then we did a sequencing of the genome that matches exactly to what we know to be the published sequence of the novel coronavirus from China."

Henry said the sample was on its way to Winnipeg with results expected from the lab in 48 hours.

Does wearing a mask work?

Henry said masks can be very important in "certain situations," such as healthcare workers wearing them when closely assessing patients or sick people wearing them to prevent the spread of droplets.

"Where it's not known is how effective wearing a mask in the community is when you are not sick yourself," she said. "The masks may give you a false sense of security. The most important thing you can do in the community is wash your hands regularly."

Vancouver pharmacy manager Gianni Del Negro said in a recent interview with CTV News that N95 respirator masks will help protect against viruses, but they need to be worn properly to work. However, he emphasized that it's not yet known if these types of masks are an effective form of protection against this new coronavirus.

"With this new virus that we're concerned about, we really don't know yet. It's too early to tell whether we can get any protection from that virus with even an N95 mask," he said.

He also said that surgical masks are not an effective safeguard against the virus but could help prevent the spread of germs.

"Your typical surgical masks that you would see a doctor using in surgery for instance, those are not going to protect you against the virus," he said. "If you're someone who's actually sick, you might have a cold or flu and you want to protect others, that type of mask will protect droplets from going out into the air."

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of the new coronavirus can vary in different patients, but include body ache, chills, coughing, sneezing, a sore throat and shortness of breath.

Health Canada said a runny nose and headache are common symptoms, as is fever and "a general feeling of being unwell."

Health officials want anyone who thinks they have coronavirus or is exhibiting symptoms to stay home to avoid infecting other people.

Should I be worried?

Henry said this new coronavirus is not as infectious as other viruses like influenza or measles and that it's not something that people can get from "casual contact."

"We know that the receptors for the virus are quite deep in the lungs, so you have to inhale enough of the virus that it can actually bind to those receptors deep in the lungs," she said. "Coronavirus in general are in larger droplets, so these are droplets that fall quickly out of the air. So you have to be in relatively close contact with somebody to be able to inhale those viruses if they cough or sneeze."

Henry said some of the most important things you can do is wash your hands regularly, cover your mouth when you cough and stay away from others if you're sick.

"If you're touching something that has droplets on it with virus in it, as long as you clean your hands before you touch your face or your mouth, you're not going to be at risk of getting that virus in your body," she said. "It's not something that comes in through the skin. It needs to get into your mucous membranes and breathed into your lungs."