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Health risk to Canadians is currently low

Bio.Diaspora LogoDr. Kamran Khan, founder of BioDiaspora and an infectious disease physician and scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, is among the experts studying the emergence of the coronavirus.

Carolyn Brown interviewed Khan for a recent CMAJ article on the viral outbreak, “New coronavirus with ‘pandemic potential’ sparks global surveillance efforts.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Canada, however, is currently at low risk for the virus, says Dr. Kamran Khan, an infectious disease physician and scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. Still, he says, “It’s fair to say that this has pandemic potential. Whether it will evolve into one depends on many things.”

Khan says two aspects could lead to a pandemic: human-to-human transmission and the possibility that cases have escaped detection to date. “We might be looking at the tip of the iceberg, only seeing those with serious forms [of the disease]. Others may have milder forms but might be capable of transmitting the disease to others.”

“We don’t yet know the course — whether it will continue at a slow pace, accelerate or fizzle out.” One of the factors affecting the course is international travel patterns, which played a major role in the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic.

. . .

Khan is working with a group called HealthMap, based at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts, to monitor international Internet “chatter” about infectious diseases as a type of “early warning system” about disease outbreaks.

The complete article is available on the CMAJ website.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the virus in question as H7N9.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, marketing and communications manager.

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