Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): For health professionals
On this page
- What health professionals need to know
- Epidemiological information
- Detecting and reporting
- Infection prevention and control
- COVID-19 health product advisories
What health professionals need to know
Health professionals in Canada have a critical role to play in identifying, reporting and managing potential cases of COVID-19.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which infect only animals, and others that can infect humans. Seven strains of coronavirus are now known to cause illness in humans.
The strain of coronavirus found in Wuhan is the most recent of 7 known strains. Of the 6 others, 4 cause only minor respiratory symptoms similar to those of a cold, and 2, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS CoV), have been associated with more serious and life-threatening diseases.
Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. Symptoms, similar to a cold or flu, may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. Current studies are investigating if the virus can be transmitted to others if someone is not showing symptoms. Symptoms include:
- difficulty breathing
- pneumonia in both lungs
In severe cases, infection can lead to death.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is actively monitoring the situation and has issued updated information on the outbreak, including a risk assessment, advice on public health measures and infection prevention and control, and enhanced surveillance.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is also monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and providing updates as new information becomes available.
Current epidemiologic information suggests that human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 can occur when an individual is in close contact with a symptomatic case. Human coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person through: respiratory droplets; close, prolonged personal contact; and touching an infected area, then touching mouth, nose or eyes before washing hands.
PHAC is collaborating with provincial and territorial public health partners to collect information on COVID-19 cases in Canada. A detailed epidemiologic summary is available.
Detecting and reporting
Diagnostic testing and medical devices
PHAC's National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) has capacity to identify COVID-19, and is developing and implementing new diagnostic tests, based on the genetic sequence of COVID-19 made available by China on January 10, 2020. Laboratory testing should be initiated in consultation with the respective provincial Public Health Laboratory (PHL). The PHL will then coordinate the submission of specimens to the National Microbiology Laboratory for further testing, as necessary. Refer to Protocol for Microbiological Investigations of Severe Acute Respiratory Infections for details on specimen collection and handling, and regarding consultation with the PHL microbiologist on-call. Refer also to additional laboratory guidance provided by PHLs.
An Interim Order has also been signed to help ensure quicker and more flexible approval of the importation and sale of medical devices that are necessary for Canada's response to COVID-19, including test kits. We have published a list of commercial diagnostic tests authorized for sale in Canada.
An interim order is one of the fastest mechanisms available to the Government of Canada to help make health products available to address larger scale public health emergencies.
If you wish to submit an application for authorization under the Interim Order please contact the Medical Devices Directorate via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 613-324-7842.
Health care professionals can obtain COVID-19 diagnostic test kits or supportive devices not yet approved for sale through the Medical Devices Special Access Program.
For general inquiries about the licensing or authorization of medical devices in Canada; you can contact the Medical Devices Directorate at 613-957-7285 or email@example.com.
Health care professionals can refer to the Interim National Surveillance Guidelines for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), and the Interim National COVID-19 Case Report Form, to aid with the detection and reporting of COVID-19 in Canada.
- Note that reporting for COVID-19 cases to the Public Health Agency of Canada is completed by provincial or territorial health authorities. The Public Health Agency of Canada does not accept reports from the public or individual health care providers.
Recommendations to public health care professionals
- Familiarize yourself with the interim national case definition for COVID-19 to consider the possibility of COVID-19 in persons with relevant clinical and exposure history.
- Familiarize yourself with the Interim National COVID-19 Case Report Form, to facilitate case reporting of confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases.
- Provincial/territorial public health authorities should report confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases to PHAC within 24 hours of their own notification.
- PHAC must report events that meet the requirements for International Health Regulations Articles 6 and 7 to the WHO within 24 hours of assessment of public health information.
- The Protocol for Microbiological Investigations of Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) will help to facilitate the diagnosis of severe respiratory infections due to both unknown and known respiratory pathogens that have the potential for large-scale epidemics.
- Familiarize yourself with the guidance on the public health management of cases and contacts associated with COVID-19.
Infection prevention and control
- Infection prevention and control for COVID-19: Interim guidance for outpatient and ambulatory care settings
- Infection prevention and control for COVID-19: Second interim guidance for acute healthcare settings
- Infection prevention and control for COVID-19: Interim guidance for long-term care homes
- Infection prevention and control for COVID-19: Interim guidance for home care settings
- Strategies to be considered if a shortage of isolation gowns occurs in a healthcare setting
Find out more about personal protective equipment for use against COVID-19 .
Reprocessing of N-95 Respirators
Healthcare professionals providing direct care to patients across the country above all need access to the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need for each and every shift.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented demand for certain supplies, including PPE. The Government of Canada is using a range of strategies to respond to this increased demand by
- purchasing as many additional supplies as possible,
- increasing domestic production, and
- extending the use of N95 respirators through reprocessing, as required.
Reprocessing of devices intended for single use only is not a new concept. It has been done successfully with other devices used in Canada and similar technology can be applied to N95 respirators.
A list of all authorized N95 respirators and all authorized equipment used in the reprocessing of N95 respirators is available on Health Canada's website. A notice to Health Care Professionals is posted on Health Canada's website that provides further information about Health Canada's evidence requirements and basis for the approach.You can also find guidance we have provided to industry on the minimum requirements that must be met to receive an authorization for equipment used in the reprocessing of N95 respirators originally intended for single use only.
Currently, there are no drugs or vaccines authorized for COVID-19 in Canada. While some products may alleviate symptoms such as fever and cough, there are no proven treatments to prevent or cure the disease.
Health Canada is closely tracking all potential drugs and vaccines in development in Canada and abroad. We are working with companies, academic research centres and investigators to help expedite the development and availability of treatments to prevent and treat COVID-19.
Drugs and Vaccines
Clinical trials are the most appropriate way for Canadians to access experimental drugs or vaccines that could help treat or prevent COVID-19. Clinical trials are used to gather information on the safety and efficacy of a product while allowing access under controlled circumstances. Health Canada is prioritizing the review of all COVID-19-related clinical trial applications. We have already authorized several trials.
Before a drug or vaccine can be sold in Canada, we look at the scientific evidence, including clinical trial results. We ensure there is enough evidence to support a product’s safety, efficacy and quality.
Health Canada will prioritize the review of market authorization applications to facilitate earlier access to COVID-19 drugs or vaccines. We may also authorize access to the Canadian market with certain restrictions (Notice of Compliance with Conditions).
To support and expedite the authorization of drugs and vaccines for COVID-19 in Canada, we are also:
- collaborating with international counterparts and
- leveraging all available knowledge
In Canada, we are working with industry associations and specific drug sponsors. Our goal is to learn as much as possible about potential vaccines and therapies, and facilitate their availability in Canada.
Special access to non-marketed drugs and medical devices
Through our Special Access Program (SAP), health care professionals may access non-marketed drugs or medical devices to treat or diagnose COVID-19 in patients.
Remdesivir is an investigational drug that has been used to treat some hospitalized patients who are ill with COVID-19 within clinical trial settings. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare recently authorized remdesivir for emergency use. However, it is still considered an investigational drug.
In Canada, 2 clinical trials for remdesivir for use against COVID-19 have been authorized to date. Access through clinical trials is available at multiple sites across the country. More information about the trials is available on our list of authorized clinical trials.
Due to the high global demand for remdesivir, its manufacturer Gilead is no longer able to provide the drug through SAP. However, it is making an exception for pregnant women or children with confirmed COVID-19 and severe illness.
COVID-19 health product advisories
- Stockpiling drugs and local shortages
- Hand sanitizers: labelling for technical grade ethanol
- Reprocessing of N95 respirators
- Safety information for certain respirator masks
- Medical Device Respirator recalls
- Spartan recall
- Convalescent plasma clinical trial
- Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine
- PrisMax control unit
- Ibuprofen and symptoms of COVID-19
- Guidance for a strategic approach to lifting restrictive public health measures
- National laboratory testing indication guidance for COVID-19
- Interim guidance on continuity of immunization programs during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Infection Prevention and Control for COVID-19: Interim Guidance for Home Care Settings
- Requirements for serological antibody tests submitted under the COVID-19 Interim Order: guidance
- COVID-19 Technical Brief: Masking and face shields for full duration of shifts in acute healthcare settings
- COVID-19 Pandemic Guidance for the Health Care Sector
- Infection Prevention and Control for COVID-19: Interim Guidance for Long Term Care Homes
- Clinical Management of Patients with Moderate to Severe COVID-19 - Interim Guidance
- Interim guide on the production of ethanol for use in alcohol-based hand sanitizers
- Routine practices and additional precautions for preventing the transmission of infection in healthcare settings
- Interim national case definition: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Interim national surveillance guidelines for human infection with coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Public health management of cases and contacts associated with coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Community-based measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Canada
- Archived: Risk-informed decision making for mass gatherings during COVID-19 global outbreak
- Archived: Public health guidance for schools (K-12) and childcare programs (COVID-19)
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Summary of assumptions
- Subsection 56(1) Class Exemption for Patients, Practitioners and Pharmacists Prescribing and Providing Controlled Substances in Canada during the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Launch of the Canadian 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Rapid Research Funding Opportunity
- COVID-19 affected areas list
- Biosafety advisory
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
- COVID-19 resources and guidance, including for federal, provincial and territorial governments
What COVID-19 information do you need?
- Health and safety
- Prevention and risks
- What is my risk of getting COVID-19 in Canada?
- Quarantine (self-isolate) vs isolate
- Physical (social) distancing and how it helps minimize COVID-19
- Am I able to go outside?
- Surface contamination
- Pregnancy and risks related to COVID-19
- Can COVID-19 be transmitted through food?
- Can my pet or other animals get sick from this virus?
- Wearing masks
- Symptoms and treatment
- Being prepared
- For individuals
- Schools and daycares
- How do I care for a person with COVID-19 at home?
- I am essential employee, what can I do to protect myself while on the job?
- Public health measures to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
- Are small gatherings still allowed to take place?
- Drug and medical device supply monitoring
- Travel restrictions and exemptions
- Are Canadians currently able to travel to the U.S.?
- Travellers arriving in Canada
- Avoid all non-essential travel
- Avoid all travel on cruise ships
- Registration of Canadians Abroad service
- Check if you have been exposed during recent travel
- I have to travel for essential reasons. How can I reduce my risk of infection?
- I am a Canadian travelling abroad and I need support. Who can I contact?
- I am a traveller trying to return home to Canada. How do I get financial support while abroad?
- For clinical trial sponsors
- Prevention and risks
- Income support
- Additional economic and financial support
- Individuals and families
- Indigenous peoples
- People who need it most
- Youth, post-secondary students and recent graduates
- Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)
- Creating new jobs and opportunities
- Launching a new national service initiative
- Helping students continue their studies in the fall
- Supporting international students working in an essential service
- Suspending repayment and interest on student and apprentice loans
- Providing youth with mental health support
- Support for businesses
- Avoiding layoffs and rehiring employees
- Access to credit
- Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP)
- Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)
- Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA)
- Rural businesses and communities
- Assisting innovative and early-stage businesses
- Young entrepreneurs
- Businesses in the territories
- Small and medium-sized businesses unable to access other support measures
- Creating new jobs and opportunities for youth
- Taxes and tariffs
- Self-employed individuals
- Indigenous businesses
- Support for sectors
- Agriculture, agri-food, aquaculture, fisheries
- Keeping workers in the food supply chain safe
- Increasing credit availability
- Assisting the fish and seafood processing sector
- Helping food producers access more PPE and adapt to health protocols
- Helping producers faced with additional costs incurred by COVID-19
- Increasing the Canadian Dairy Commission borrowing limit
- Helping redistribute existing and unsold inventories
- Increasing interim payments from 50% to 75% through AgriStability
- Expanding the AgriInsurance to include labour shortage
- Cultural, heritage and sports
- Air transportation
- Non-profit and charitable
- Agriculture, agri-food, aquaculture, fisheries
- About COVID-19
- E-mail updates on COVID-19
- Current confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Canada
- More details about the cases reported in Canada
- Canadian borders
- Support for Canadians abroad
- What is COVID-19?
- Incubation period
- How does it spread?
- What are the risks of getting it?
- Where can I get information specific to my province or territory?
- How governments are working together
- How can I make a difference in Canada’s COVID-19 response efforts?
- Resources for parents and children
- People with disabilities
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