Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an illness caused by a coronavirus. Respiratory infections caused by COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan City, China in December 2019. The outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO on January 30, 2020 and declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020. A pandemic is when an infectious disease spreads across the globe. This is different than an epidemic which is usually contained within a region or country.

Although COVID-19 originated from Wuhan, China, it has now spread worldwide including to British Columbia. Cases in British Columbia are being closely managed.

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How is coronavirus transmitted?

Coronavirus is spread from an infected person through

  • Respiratory droplets spread when a person coughs or sneezes
  • Close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

It is important to keep about a 2-metre distance away from a person who is sick, to reduce breathing in droplets when they cough or sneeze.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms for COVID-19 include

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing

The incubation period is the time from when a person is first exposed until symptoms appear. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. This is the longest known infectious period for this disease.

If you are unsure about your symptoms or have questions or concerns, contact HealthLinkBC (8-1-1) at any time.

If you do need to see a health care provider, call them ahead of time so they can arrange for you to be assessed safely. Wear a mask to protect others.

When seeing a health care provider, please tell them

  • Your symptoms
  • Where you have been travelling or living
  • If you had direct contact with animals (for example, if you visited a live animal market)
  • If you had close contact with a sick person, especially if they had a fever, cough or difficulty breathing

How can I prevent getting infected?

The most important thing you can do to prevent infection is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth. You can also practice respiratory etiquette and social distancing.

To help reduce your risk of infection

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Using soap and water is the single most effective way of reducing the spread of infection
  • If a sink is not available, alcohol based hand rubs (ABHR) can be used to clean your hands as long as they are not visibly soiled. If they are visibly soiled, use a wipe and then ABHR to effectively clean them
  • Do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Follow good respiratory etiquette by covering your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue or the crease of your elbow when you sneeze or cough
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Do not share food, drinks, utensils, etc.
  • Avoid crowded public spaces and places. Examples include mass gatherings, such as concerts and sporting events. Examples do not include hospitals (for healthcare workers) and schools
  • Maintain social distancing by keeping at least a 2-metre distance between yourself and others
  • Avoid shaking hands

For more information on proper hand washing see:

Should I wear a mask?

  • Only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially coughing) or looking after someone who may have COVID-19
  • A disposable face mask can only be used once
  • It may be less effective to wear a mask if you are not sick