Canada’s first apparent “community case” of coronavirus was reported Thursday, involving a Vancouver-area woman who recently caught the virus without having been out of the country.
Community cases of COVID-19 had been reported in several countries around the world — but not yet in Canada.
Here’s a look at what exactly the new case means.
A community case indicates that the virus was passed within a community, rather than contracted through travel. Previously, all cases in Canada had involved individuals who recently travelled to other countries such as China, Iran, Italy or Egypt.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the B.C.’s health officer, said Thursday the case of the woman is of particular concern because she did not travel recently and has had no known contact with anyone else diagnosed with the coronavirus.
“This is a community case and we are doing a detailed investigation right now to try and determine where her source of infection was,” said Henry, adding the woman was initially tested for influenza.
Henry said officials are doing “disease detective work” to determine the source of the woman’s infection.
“There’s likely at least one other person out there who has this disease or had this disease, and we need to find them,” she said.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the case calls in to question whether the disease may be spreading in the community. She said she has “every confidence” that B.C. health officials would work to determine if that has occurred.
Roojin Habibi, a global health lawyer and research fellow at York University’s Global Strategy Lab, explained that news of the first reported community case is Canada likely isn’t a surprise to health officials who have been preparing for it.
“Public health officials have expected this for a while now, and it’s just a matter of deploying the resources that we have to contain it within communities,” Habibi said. “It’s just something that we have to brace for — this is going to be spreading within our communities beyond just international travel.”
Earlier this week, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said officials are trying to “contain and delay” community outbreaks in Canada, at least until after the typical flu season is over.