Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): For health professionals

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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:

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.

Transmission

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.

Epidemiological information

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 hc.devicelicensing-homologationinstruments.sc@canada.ca 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 hc.meddevices-instrumentsmed.sc@canada.ca.

Reporting

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.

Recommendations to public health care professionals

Infection prevention and control

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

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.

Treatment

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.

Refer to the interim guidance on clinical management of patients with moderate to severe COVID-19.

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 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:

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

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

Guidance

Related links

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