VANCOUVER -- While concerns are growing about a virus that has made hundreds ill in China and killed more than a dozen people, one B.C. school board is assuring residents that the risk for school-aged children remains very low.

Currently referred to as novel coronavirus, the respiratory illness has made more than 500 people ill and killed 17, mostly around the city of Wuhan. No cases have been confirmed in Canada yet, but a few have been tested in B.C.

Even still, the Vancouver School Board released a statement to parents it had received from Vancouver Coastal Health saying local medical officers are monitoring the situation and that "the risk to the general public, including school-age children, is very low."

Right now the BC Centre for Disease Control says it expects to see some "sporadic cases" outside of China and that all Metro Vancouver hospitals have been prepped to deal with possible infections. 

While concern around travel has heightened, leading Vancouver International Airport to introduce new screening measures for those who have visited Wuhan, one B.C. expert said an illness like coronavirus can spread in nearly any environment. 

"I think a children's daycare or a supermarket is just as much risk as an airport," Dr. Michael Curry, a clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia told CTV News Vancouver.

But even with low-risk, the VSB is reminding locals to follow the same hygienic practices as they would in cold and flu season including proper hand-washing, staying home when sick and covering coughs and sneezes. 

"At this time, reports indicate that, similar to influenza, this virus is spread when a sick person coughs or sneezes," VCH's statement to the school board said. "Most of the reported cases are only showing mild symptoms and are well enough to stay home."

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Kendra Mangione and Penny Daflos