B.C. health officials have confirmed that a sixth case of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the province, this time in the Fraser Health region.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in an update Thursday that the latest patient is a woman in her 30s who recently returned from Iran.
Fraser Health is investigating if anyone has made close contact with the woman while she remains in isolation.
This marks the first patient in B.C. to be diagnosed with the novel coronavirus who did not travel from China.
“This one, clearly, is a bit unusual in that the travel to Iran is something new,” Henry said. “Iran has recently started reporting cases and we’ll be working with our national and international colleagues to better understand where she may have been exposed to this virus prior to her return to Canada.”
Henry said the woman went to a local hospital concerned about influenza-like symptoms. She was examined and released, Henry added.
“My understanding, from initial discussions with the clinician who saw her as well as the patient herself, was they did think it was influenza,” Henry said.
She said the woman’s novel coronavirus diagnosis was surprising, primarily because of her travel only to Iran.
“That could be an indicator there’s more widespread transmission,” said Henry. “This is what we call an indicator or sentinel event. A sentinel event means it’s a marker that something many be going on broader than what we expect.”
She said B.C. has reported the case to the Public Health Agency of Canada and it will also be reported to the World Health Organization.
Henry said the diagnosis shows B.C. has a robust system for identifying people who have the virus.
“We still believe the risk in Canada and here in B.C. is low,” she said.
China, where an outbreak has caused more than 2,200 deaths, has reported another fall in new virus cases to 889 as COVID-19 spreads elsewhere.
China’s latest figures released Friday for the previous 24 hours brought the total number of cases to 75,465. The 118 newly reported deaths raised the total to 2,236. More than 1,000 cases and 11 deaths have been confirmed outside the mainland.
Iran announced three more infections Thursday, a day after it reported its first two deaths, and South Korea reported its first fatality. Japan said two former passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship had died of the illness.