Please note: This article is accurate at the time of publication (stated above). But with the situation around coronavirus changing frequently, you may not see the most up-to-date information in the text below. To receive the latest updates around COVID-19, please visit the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website and the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 page.

For many, getting sick inevitably comes as the snow flies. But with the coronavirus pandemic escalating, you may feel concerned.

True, the latest coronavirus – called COVID-19 – is more serious than the common flu. And, the amount of media coverage and attention around the disease can be worrying. So what can you do to stay calm, prepared and alert right now? Get a clear understanding of your risk level, practice some simple healthy habits and look to trusted sources for advice.

To start, here’s a quick breakdown of how COVID-19 started, its symptoms and risk to Canadians.

What is coronavirus or COVID-19? 

According to the Government of Canada, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses. These viruses can cause various illnesses, ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

In December 2019, there were a number of reported cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China. The cause was later confirmed as a new coronavirus called COVID-19. Health officials have reported thousands of infections with COVID-19 in China. It wasn’t long until other countries began reporting outbreaks as well.

What are the symptoms of the latest coronavirus or COVID-19?

Some cornaviruses spread between animals and some between animals and people. Others can spread from people to people. Symptoms may include:

  • fever,
  • cough,
  • difficulty breathing, and
  • pneumonia in both lungs.

Are Canadians at risk of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a pandemic, with cases reported in more than 160 countries, including Canada. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says COVID-19 is a serious health problem, and the risk to Canadians is considered high.

Are Canadians travelling abroad at risk?

An official global travel advisory is in effect. This means Canadians must avoid non-essential travel outside of the country until further notice.

Check out the Government of Canada’s page on active travel health notices for COVID-19. The countries or regions they list may have different levels of risk. And, these risk levels may change as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.

How to protect yourself from the latest coronavirus (COVID-19)

With the COVID-19 situation changing everyday, you can stay calm, healthy and prepared with these simple tips:

1. Wash your hands regularly

Wash your hands every two to three hours, using proper hand-washing techniques. Use lots of soap and hot water, and be sure to rub vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds.

2. Clean your surroundings

Try to maintain a clean living space. Use disinfecting wipes on tables, kitchen surfaces, desks, telephones and anything else you frequently touch.

3. Keep away from common areas when you can

Avoid touching commonly shared surfaces such as washroom doorknobs, kitchen counters or stair railings as much as possible.

4. Don’t touch your face with unclean hands

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth whenever possible.

5. Cancel your non-essential travel plans

The PHAC suggests looking at travel advisories on travel.gc.ca. They also recommend that travellers avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada.

6. Stay at home as much as possible

Canadians are urged to limit close contact with others, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. This means practicing social distancing by:

  • avoiding non-essential gatherings,
  • avoiding greetings such as handshakes,
  • limiting contact with higher risk individuals like older adults or those in poor health, and
  • keeping roughly 2 metres of distance from others, as much as possible.

7. Work from home or don’t go to work if you feel sick

Your employer must provide clear policies and procedures for global health events like COVID-19. If you’re unaware of what these policies are or if they haven’t provided any, ask for them.

Some employers may insist that you work from home during this pandemic. Or, they may ask you to stay at home or work from home if you’re feeling sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

Consult your HR department for more info.

8. Call your doctor or qualified health professional

Do you feel concerned about any cold and flu symptoms you’re experiencing? Call your doctor or public health authority ahead of time. Let them know what’s happening. They can tell you what to do next and decide if you need hospital care.

9. Don’t panic and get accurate information

Hearing about the spread of coronavirus in the news can feel daunting. But try not to panic. Think of it in the same you would a bad weather situation. In case it happens, you want to be prepared and alert. This means looking to trusted sources for advice on what to do if an outbreak happens in your community.

We recommend visiting the following sites for the latest updates on COVID-19: