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 quarantine (self-isolate) and isolate

There is a difference between advice to quarantine (self-isolate) and advice to isolate. These measures are in place to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

Additional restrictions apply to travellers returning to Canada.

Quarantine (self-isolate)

Quarantine for 14 days if you have no symptoms and any of the following apply:

Isolate

You must isolate if any of the following apply:

Preventing coronavirus

Think you might have COVID-19?
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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. Measures to reduce COVID-19 in your community are especially important as some areas begin to lift restrictions.

As we continue to see transmission of the virus within different communities, we know that everyone must take precautions, even those who have not travelled outside of Canada.

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within communities and across the country, all Canadians are advised to:

You can go for a walk if you:

If you go out for a walk, do not congregate and always practise physical (social) distancing by keeping at least 2 metres apart from others at all times.

Physical (social) distancing

Together, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by making a conscious effort to keep a physical distance between each other. Physical (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

Coronaviruses are one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product when used according to the label directions. Health Canada has published a list of hard surface disinfectants that are likely to be effective for use against COVID-19.

Although they do not claim to kill COVID-19, cleaners can play a role in limiting the transfer of microorganisms. Health Canada recommends cleaning high-touch hard surfaces often, using either regular household cleaners or diluted bleach according to the label directions. This bleach solution should be prepared according to the instructions on the label or in a ratio of 250 mL (1 cup) of water per 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of bleach. Directions are based on bleach that is 5% sodium hypochlorite, to give a 0.1% sodium hypochlorite solution. Never mix bleach with other chemical products and use it in a well-ventilated area. Special precautions must be used when cleaning with bleach to avoid serious incidents.

These surfaces include:

Refer to the guidance on cleaning and disinfecting public spaces for more information.

Wearing masks or face coverings

Medical masks, including surgical, medical procedure face masks and respirators (like N95 masks), must be kept for health care workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients.

Wearing a non-medical mask or face covering while out in public is recommended for periods of time when it is not possible to consistently maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded public settings, such as:

Public health officials will make recommendations based on a number of factors, including the rates of infection and/or transmission in the community. Recommendations may vary from location to location.

If you do choose to wear one, refer to the:

Masks alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. You must consistently and strictly adhere to good hygiene and public health measures, including frequent hand washing and physical (social) distancing.

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.

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

Check if you have been exposed

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

Vulnerable populations

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

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

If you have symptoms, 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

Because COVID-19 is a new disease, we are still learning how it affects pregnant women. At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that pregnant women are at a greater risk for more serious outcomes related to COVID-19 or that their developing child could be negatively affected by COVID-19.

You can protect yourself from becoming ill by taking the following precautions:

For more information, refer to our advice for mothers on pregnancy, childbirth and caring for newborns.

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 and healthy eating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Animals in Canada

The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human-to-human transmission. There is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of this disease. Animals and COVID-19 is an area that continues to be studied by scientists.

Learn how to keep pets and livestock, as well as yourself, safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

Health Canada has published a list of hard surface disinfectants that are likely to be effective for use against COVID-19. This list is updated regularly. Although they do not claim to kill viruses such as COVID-19, cleaners play a role in helping limit the transfer of microorganisms.

Exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) from 5G devices does not spread COVID-19. There is no scientific basis behind these claims. Both the World Health Organization and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection have also addressed these claims.

We encourage 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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