Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Prevention and risks

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How coronavirus spreads

Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

Current evidence suggests person-to-person spread is efficient when there is close contact.

Difference between self-monitor, self-isolate and isolate

There is a difference between advice to self-monitor, advice to self-isolate and advice to isolate. It is important to note these measures are in place to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

Self-monitor

Self-monitoring means to:

  • monitor yourself for 14 days for symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough, fever and difficulty breathing
  • avoid crowded places and increase your personal space from others whenever possible

If you develop symptoms, isolate yourself from others immediately and contact your public health authority as soon as possible.

Self-isolate

Self-isolate if you:

  • have no symptoms and
  • have travelled outside of Canada within the last 14 days or
  • have come in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or
  • have been asked to do so by your public health authority

Self-isolation means to:

  • stay at home and monitor yourself for symptoms, even if mild, for 14 days
  • avoid contact with others

If you develop symptoms, even if mild, stay home, avoid other people and contact your public health authority as soon as possible.

Isolate

You need to be isolated if you:

  • have symptoms, even if mild, associated with COVID-19 or
  • have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or
  • are waiting for laboratory test results or
  • have been advised to do so by your Public Health Authority

Isolating yourself means to:

  • stay home until the local public health authority says you are no longer at risk of spreading the virus
  • avoid contact with others

If your symptoms get worse, immediately contact your healthcare provider or Public Health Authority and follow their instructions.

Preventing coronavirus

Canadians should continue to think ahead about the actions that they can take to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, including:

Think you might have COVID-19?
Take a self-assessment

Social distancing

Together, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by making a conscious effort to keep a physical distance between each other. Social distancing is proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak.

This means making changes in your everyday routines to minimize close contact with others, including:

Hygiene

Proper hygiene can help reduce the risk of infection or spreading infection to others:

Cleaning

Health Canada has published a list of hard surface disinfectants that are likely to be effective for use against coronavirus (COVID-19).

Although they do not claim to kill viruses such as COVID-19, cleaners can play a role in helping limit the transfer of microorganisms. Health Canada recommends cleaning often, using either regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) the following high-touch surfaces:

Wearing masks

If you are a healthy individual, the use of a mask is not recommended for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Wearing a mask when you are not ill may give a false sense of security. There is a potential risk of infection with improper mask use and disposal. They also need to be changed frequently.

However, your health care provider may recommend you wear a mask if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 while you are seeking or waiting for care. In this instance, masks are an appropriate part of infection prevention and control measures. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading you when you cough or sneeze.

Risks of getting coronavirus

COVID-19 is a serious health threat, and the situation is evolving daily. The risk will vary between and within communities, but given the increasing number of cases in Canada, the risk to Canadians is considered high.

This does not mean that all Canadians will get the disease. It means that there is already a significant impact on our health care system. If we do not flatten the epidemic curve now, the increase of COVID-19 cases could impact health care resources available to Canadians.

Have you been on a flight or cruise, or at a public gathering? Check these exposure locations  to see if you may have been exposed to COVID-19.

The risk for COVID-19 may be increased for certain settings such as:

There is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for Canadians:

People that fall into these categories should reconsider attending gatherings. This includes large gatherings and even smaller events in crowded or enclosed settings.

If you have symptoms (cough, fever or difficulty breathing), do not attend a mass gathering, event or places where people gather. You could put someone whose health is vulnerable at risk.

Travellers

The risk for getting COVID-19 may be increased for travellers. Canadians are advised to avoid all non-essential travel. If you must travel, check the latest travel advice before you leave.

We will continue to adapt our risk assessment based on the latest data available.

Pregnant women

Throughout pregnancy, women experience changes in their bodies that may increase the risk of some illnesses, including viral respiratory infections, such as the flu. At this time, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that pregnant women are at a greater risk for more serious outcomes related to COVID-19.

It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses and take the appropriate steps to avoid and prevent infection. Proper hygiene can help reduce the risk of getting an infection or spreading infection to others.

If you are pregnant and concerned about COVID-19, speak to your health care provider.

Survival of coronaviruses on surfaces

It is not certain how long COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Preliminary information on COVID-19 suggests that the virus may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days depending on different conditions, such as:

Surfaces frequently touched with hands are most likely to be contaminated, including:

Products shipped within or from outside of Canada could also be contaminated. However, because parcels generally take days or weeks to be delivered, and are shipped at room temperature, the risk of spread is low. There is no known risk of coronaviruses entering Canada on parcels or packages.

To protect yourself from COVID-19, make sure to do the following when handling products shipped within or outside of Canada:

Food

There is currently no evidence to suggest that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus and there are currently no reported cases of COVID 19 transmission through food. People are unlikely to be infected with the virus through food.  

Scientists and food safety authorities across the world are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19.

If we become aware of a potential food safety risk, appropriate actions will be taken to ensure the safety of Canada’s food supply.

Coronaviruses are killed by common cleaning and disinfection methods and by cooking food to safe internal temperatures.

Learn more about food safety.

Animals in Canada

The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human-to-human transmission. There is no evidence to suggest that pets or other animals play a role in transmitting the disease to humans. Scientists are still trying to understand if and how it affects animals. 

Pets can contribute to our overall happiness and well-being, especially in times of stress. If you are feeling well (no symptoms of COVID-19) and are not self-isolating because of COVID-19 illness, you can continue to take walks with your dog or spend time with your pet. This can contribute to keeping both you and your pet healthy.

As a precautionary measure, if you have COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case, you should follow similar recommendations around animals, as you would around people in these circumstances:

These measures are recommended as a precaution, and are basic practices to prevent transmission of diseases between humans and animals. If you have concerns, seek professional advice from your veterinarian or a public health professional who can help to answer your questions.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency website has more information about animals and COVID-19.

False and misleading claims

We have not approved any product to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19. Selling unauthorized health products or making false or misleading claims to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19 is illegal in Canada. We take this matter very seriously and we are taking action to stop this activity.

We have also not approved any disinfectant products with claims specific to COVID-19. However, authorized disinfectant products can make a claim of broad spectrum of activity against viruses if they meet specific evidence standards. We are working with companies and we will publish a list of disinfectant products that can make this claim to help Canadians make effective choices.

We encourages anyone who has information regarding potential non-compliant sale or advertising of any health product claiming to treat, prevent or cure COVID-19, to report it using our online complaint form.

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