China General Health Risks:


Cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed in China. Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak, continues to report the majority of cases.

Travellers are advised to postpone all travel to Hubei province. Check your government travel advisory for additional information.

Imported cases have also been confirmed in Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.

Source: ProMED-mail.

Last updated: February 14, 2020.



Coronaviruses are a large family of respiratory viruses that can cause illness in people and animals. In rare cases, coronaviruses that circulate among animals can evolve and infect humans. In turn, these infections can easily spread from person-to-person as was the case for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).

There is currently an outbreak of a novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19) in China. The outbreak was first reported on December 31, 2019 when cases of viral pneumonia with unknown origin were reported from Wuhan in Hubei Province.

The COVID-19 outbreak is a rapidly evolving situation and information about the virus is still emerging. Similar to other coronaviruses, COVID-19 is suspected to have come from animals.

This virus can be transmitted from person-to-person through contact with an infected person’s secretions such as a cough or sneeze. The virus can also be spread by touching a surface that has come into contact with an infected person and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.


Symptoms include pneumonia-like symptoms including cough, fever, fatigue, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath. Those with a weakened immune system such as children, the elderly, and those with a pre-existing illness, appear to be more prone to severe forms of the illness. It is believed that symptoms appear within 2 days to 14 days after exposure. If you develop any respiratory infection symptoms within or shortly after 14 days of travel to China:

  • Seek medical attention immediately and tell your doctor of your recent travel and possible exposure.
  • Limit your contact with others to avoid spreading the virus.
  • Wash your hands often and cough and sneeze into the crook of your arm or a tissue. Safely dispose the tissue after use.
  • Wear a surgical mask if you are around others to reduce the risk of spreading the infection via coughing or sneezing. Patients visiting healthcare settings may be asked to wear a mask to protect others.

Take the following steps to reduce your risk of respiratory infections:

  • Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer where soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid close contact with those who appear sick. Wash your hands immediately after contact with a sick person or their environment.
  • Avoid touching your face – mouth, nose, or eyes – and cover your mouth with a tissue or use your sleeve to sneeze or cough.
  • Avoid live animal, seafood, and bird markets, and farms.
  • Do not eat undercooked or raw meat, or eggs.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself against the novel coronavirus?

If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask when taking care of someone who is sick. You should wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing, or have suspected COVID-19 infection. 

Before putting on the mask and while wearing it, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, and avoid touching your face. Dispose of the mask immediately after use. 

For additional guidance, check out: When and how to use masks

Information last updated: February 14, 2020

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