Ontario public health officials are investigating a confirmed case of coronavirus in London, less than a week after the potentially deadly virus was first detected in the province.
The unidentified woman, a Western University student in her 20s, tested positive for the coronavirus strain originating from Wuhan, China, where an outbreak has killed more than 200 people since December.
The London case is the third in Ontario and the fourth in Canada.
The woman had visited the affected region of China, provincial public health officials said Friday at a news conference in Toronto. She arrived in Toronto Jan. 23 and travelled home to London in a private vehicle.
Though experiencing no symptoms, she wore a mask for her entire trip home from Wuhan to London, said Chris Mackie, medical officer of health and chief executive of the Middlesex-London Health Unit, on Friday. When mild symptoms appeared Jan. 24, she sought treatment at University Hospital.
She was tested and released with followup from the Middlesex-London Health Unit and recovered in two or three days, Mackie said. “The illness was very mild. Recovery was very quick,” he said.
The woman remains in isolation in her home despite being well, he said. She has not been to Western’s campus since returning to Canada.
Both of the woman’s parents in Wuhan were hospitalized with an illness, but were not tested for coronavirus, Mackie said. Their illness was one reason why the woman was particularly vigilant on her return to Canada.
The only time she left her home was to go to hospital for testing, Mackie said. Her roommate had moved out shortly before she returned home, and her partner has worn a mask during every interaction with her since she got back.
“She went above and beyond to protect the public,” Mackie added. “Because of her awareness of the risks of her travel to Wuhan . . . she remained in isolation in her home.”
She will remain in self-isolation in her home until she is cleared by public health officials, Mackie said.
Western and the health unit issued a joint statement Friday, saying, “The student has not been on Western’s campus since returning to London, and Middlesex-London Health Unit officials have confirmed there is very low risk to the campus community.”
The woman initially tested negative for coronavirus, public health officials said.
Testing for the virus, an emerging public health issue, is evolving, said Vanessa Allen, chief of medical microbiology at the Public Health Ontario lab. Public health officials retested samples from the London woman using methods that examine different parts of the virus and obtained a positive result.
Ontario health officials are investigating 17 possible coronavirus cases in the province.
“The risk continues to be very low for Ontarians,” said David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.
A London Health Sciences Centre official said its emergency department personnel took every precaution to ensure patient and employee safety.