1. What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). Some transmit easily from person to person while others do not. COVID-19 is a new disease that has not been previously identified in humans.
China determined that a novel coronavirus (referred to as COVID-19) is responsible for the outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan. Authorities in China and worldwide are conducting further investigations to better understand where the disease came from, how it is spread and the clinical severity of illness in humans.
2. What are the symptoms?
Those with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu.
Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19.
Symptoms have included:
- difficulty breathing
- pneumonia in both lungs
In severe cases, infection can lead to death.
3. What are the risks of getting COVID-19?
The public health risk associated with COVID-19 for Canada is low and generally low for Canadian travellers, but will vary depending on the destination.
Canada has no direct flights from Wuhan and the volume of travellers arriving indirectly from Wuhan is low. However, at this time, the Government of Canada recommends that Canadians avoid non-essential travel to China and Iran due to an outbreak of COVID-19.
Canada also recommends that Canadians avoid all travel to the province of Hubei due to very strict travel and movement restrictions imposed by Chinese authorities to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Current evidence suggests person-to-person spread is efficient when there is close contact.
Public health risk is continually reassessed as new information becomes available.
4. Is there a vaccine to protect against COVID-19?
No, there is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19.
5. Will this year’s flu vaccine protect me from COVID-19?
No, the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19.
6. What is the treatment for COVID-19?
For now, there is no specific treatments for most people with COVID-19. Most people with common coronavirus illness will recover on their own. At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. Your health care provider may recommend steps you can take to relieve symptoms.
Consult your health care provider as soon as possible if:
- you are concerned about your symptoms or
- you have a travel history to a region where severe coronaviruses are known to occur
The sooner you consult your health care provider, the better your chances are for recovery.
7. How does COVID-19 spread?
Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- respiratory droplets that are spread when you cough or sneeze
- close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
8. What is the incubation period of COVID-19?
Current information indicates that symptoms may present themselves up to 14 days after exposure to COVID-19.
9. How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?
You can stay healthy and prevent the spread of infections by:
- washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands;
- avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
- coughing or sneezing into your sleeve and not your hands; and
- staying home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others.
10. Should the general population in Canada wear masks to protect themselves from COVID-19?
If you are a healthy individual, the use of a mask is not necessary.
However, if you are experiencing symptoms of an illness that spreads through the air, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of the infection to others. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading around you when you cough or sneeze. Your health provider may recommend you wear a mask while you are seeking or waiting for care. In this instance, masks are an appropriate part of infection prevention and control measures that are put in place so that people with an infectious respiratory illness do not transmit the infection to others.
If you are caring for a sick person or you are in direct contact with an ill person, wearing a mask can help protect you from catching COVID-19, but it will not fully eliminate the risk of illness.
When wearing a mask, make sure to:
- properly cover your mouth and nose
- avoid touching the mask once it’s on your face
- properly discard the mask after each use
- wash your hands after removing the mask
It is not recommended that healthy people or people who have not travelled to a COVID-19-affected area (e.g. Hubei Province and mainland China) wear masks. Wearing a mask when you are not ill and are not at high risk for developing symptoms may give a false sense of security. Masks can easily become contaminated and need to be changed frequently and fitted properly for them to provide adequate protection.
You can stay healthy and prevent the spread of infections by:
- washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- coughing or sneezing into your sleeve and not your hands
- staying home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others
11. Are Canadians at risk for contracting COVID-19 if they receive a package or products shipped from China?
There is no known risk of coronaviruses entering Canada on parcels or packages coming from affected regions in China.
Although there is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and how it spreads, we can use the information from 2 other coronaviruses (SARS and MERS) to guide us.
In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is considered to be a very low risk of spread from products or packaging that is shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.
Studies on the SARS coronavirus showed that the virus did not survive on dry surfaces such as paper. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread by respiratory droplets.
Currently there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods.
There have not been any cases of COVID-19 in Canada associated with imported goods from China.
12. Where can I find the most up-to-date information about COVID-19?
For the latest and most up-to-date information, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s web page on COVID-19. You can also follow Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, on Twitter at @CPHO_Canada.
Canadians travelling abroad are encouraged to consult the travel health notices on travel.gc.ca.
13. Can COVID-19 be transmitted when a person is not showing symptoms?
This question is under investigation at this time. Studies to answer this question are being conducted now.
While experts believe that spread from a person who is asymptomatic (not showing any symptoms) is possible, this is considered to be rare.
What we do know for certain is that COVID-19 is most often being spread through close contact with a person who is showing symptoms (symptomatic cases).
So based on the latest available data, the main driver of the COVID-19 outbreak is symptomatic cases.
That means the primary focus for containing the COVID-19 outbreak is to prevent exposure through direct and close contact.
The most effective way to control this type of spread is through good hygiene measures in community settings (handwashing, cough etiquette and staying home if sick) and strict infection prevention and control measures in health settings to prevent spread in hospital settings.
14. Is there a risk of contracting COVID-19 if I touch a surface that was potentially contaminated?
In general, coronaviruses have poor survivability on surfaces, and are generally thought to be spread by respiratory droplets left behind after someone coughs or sneezes.
For COVID-19, researchers are actively investigating to learn more about the ways that COVID-19 is transmitted.
In the meantime, the best way to prevent respiratory and other illnesses is to:
- avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth;
- consistently use good hand hygiene measures, which include frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available;
- maintain good respiratory etiquette, such as covering your mouth and nose with your arm or sleeve when coughing and sneezing, disposing of any used tissues as soon as possible, and following with handwashing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers where soap and water are not available;
- regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that people touch frequently such as toilets, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water).
COVID-19 and animals
15. Can I get this virus from animals when travelling to other countries?
Although the current spread and growth of the COVID-19 outbreak is primarily associated with spread from person to person, experts agree that the virus likely originated from bats and likely passed through an intermediary animal source (currently unknown) in China before being transmitted to humans.
As the virus that causes COVID-19 and other coronaviruses (such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV) originated in animals, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends travellers, and especially those who travel to an affected country or region, avoid contact with animals and animal products (including wild meat and wet markets).
If you are considering travel, check the latest travel health notices for the most up-to-date travel advice prior to travelling.
16. Can I get this virus from animals in Canada?
No, there is currently no evidence to suggest that any animal native to Canada (wild, livestock or pets) harbours the virus that causes COVID-19. Therefore, animals in Canada do not pose a risk of infecting people with this virus.
17. Can my pet or other animals get sick from this virus?
While a recent study suggests that the virus that causes COVID-19 may have the potential to infect some types of animals, similar to what is known for SARS-CoV, there is currently no evidence that pets or other domestic animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people. There are still many unknowns about this newly emerged coronavirus and this is an area that remains to be studied and understood.
Until we know more, similar to the recommendations for reducing the risk of infection to other people, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have a pet or other animals:
- avoid close contact with them
- do not snuggle or kiss them, or let them lick you, sit on your lap, or sleep in your bed
- practise good cough etiquette
- avoid coughing and sneezing on your pet or other animal
- wash your hands before touching or feeding your pet or other animals
- limit your pet’s or other animal’s contact with other people and animals
These recommendations will be updated as more information becomes available.
18. I am planning travel to China, what is the current advice?
The Government of Canada is continuing to recommend that Canadians avoid non-essential travel to China and avoid all travel to Hubei province.
Canadians travelling abroad are encouraged to consult the Travel Health Notice for China for more information.
Always consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic at least 6 weeks before you travel.
19. I am a returning traveller from the Hubei province in China or Iran, what do I need to do?
If you have travelled to Hubei province in China or Iran in the last 14 days, limit your contact with others for a total of 14 days, starting the day you began your journey to Canada. This means self-isolate and stay at home. In addition, contact the local public health authority in your province or territory within 24 hours of arriving in Canada.
All travellers from these countries are advised to monitor themselves for symptoms and to contact the local public health authority in their province or territory if they feel sick.
Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19 abroad. Inform your health care provider or local health authority about symptoms and travel history.
For additional information, please see our latest advice for returning travellers.
20. Why are travellers returning from Hubei, China, and Iran being asked to limit contact with others for 14 days following their arrival in Canada?
This supports the global public health objective to contain the outbreak and prevent further spread to Canada.
21. I have recently returned from a trip outside of Canada. What do I need to do?
It is important for all travellers to monitor their health when they return to Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada asks that you monitor your health for fever, cough and difficulty breathing for 14 days after you arrive in Canada. If you have these symptoms, call the public health authority in the province or territory you are in to inform them. They will provide advice on what you should do.
22. I have winter travel plans (not to Asia); how can I reduce my risk of infection?
No matter where Canadians plan to travel, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that they consult travel.gc.ca, which is the Government of Canada’s official source of destination-specific travel information. It provides important advice to help travellers make informed decisions and travel safely while abroad.
Canadians should always tell their health care providers about their travel if they become ill after returning to Canada.
23. I am a Canadian travelling abroad and I am experiencing symptoms. What should I do?
Many Canadians become ill and require medical assistance when they are outside Canada. If you get sick when you are travelling, here’s how to get help:
- Most major tourist hotels have in-house doctors who can provide medical care. Hotels can also arrange appointments with local physicians.
- If you have travel insurance, contact the local number you may have been given or the assistance centre in Canada, and ask for a referral.
- If you need urgent care, the best option is often the nearest hospital. In some countries, ambulances may not be common. Use whatever form of transportation you have to get to a hospital.
- If you have a medical emergency while abroad, consular officials at the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate can help.
Find out more on what to do if you experience sickness or an injury while travelling abroad.
24. The Travel Health Notice says it is a Level 3. What does that mean?
A Level 3 signifies that it is recommended that Canadian travellers avoid non-essential travel in order to protect the health of Canadian travellers and the Canadian public.
The notice outlines specific precautions to take when visiting the region and what to do if you become ill during or after travel.
A notice at this level is often issued during a large-scale outbreak in a large geographic area, or if there is increased risk to the traveller and an increased risk of spreading disease to other groups including the Canadian public.
Learn more about the different risk levels associated with travel health notices.
25. Why has the health advice for passengers who were on the MS Westerdam cruise ship and who enter into Canada changed from self-isolation to monitoring for symptoms?
Based on recent evidence, and what we know about the health of the passengers from the MS Westerdam cruise ship, there is no indication that individuals on the ship were exposed to COVID-19.
As a result, the Government of Canada is requesting that passengers self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough and difficulty breathing) and contact their local public health authority if they develop symptoms.
Government of Canada actions
26. What actions are being taken at Canadian airports and borders to stop COVID-19 from entering Canada?
New measures have been implemented at the 10 Canadian airports. Measures help to:
- identify any travellers returning to Canada who may be ill
- raise awareness among travellers about what they should do if they become sick
For additional information, please see Canada’s response at airports.
27. In which 10 airports have the additional screening measures been implemented?
Additional screening measures were put in place at the Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal international airports on January 22, 2020. As of February 1, 2020, the additional measures are also in place at the following airports:
- Calgary International Airport
- Edmonton International Airport
- Winnipeg Richardson International Airport
- Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport
- Ottawa International Airport
- Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport
- Halifax Stanfield International Airport
28. Will Canada close its borders or start banning flights from China?
No. The Government of Canada and the provinces and territories have multiple systems in place to prepare for, detect and respond to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in Canada.
We are also aware that China has taken extraordinary measures including conducting exit screenings, and have closed all the flights and transportation from Wuhan and some other affected cities.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been engaged and is actively monitoring the situation. With the information currently available for COVID-19, the WHO advises that measures to limit the risk of exportation or importation of the disease should be implemented, without unnecessary restrictions of international traffic.