A passenger wears a mask at the international arrivals area at the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Thursday, January 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Keep calm and wash your hands: B.C. pharmacist’s tips on coronavirus prevention

Coronavirus is still contained to three isolated patients in Canada

Although the coronavirus may be the new outbreak this year, a B.C. pharmacist says the best advice remains to just wash you hands.

“The most effective way of preventing transmission is hand washing with soap and water,” said Gianni Del Negro, a pharmacist at London Drugs’ Dunbar store in Vancouver.

Del Negro said the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed at least 170 people and infected more than 7,800 in China as of Thursday afternoon, has sent people running to pharmacies to buy masks – even though they don’t work.

“The typical surgical mask… they really are not going to protect people from getting a viral infection,” Del Negro told Black Press Media.

But, Del Negro said, not only are the masks unnecessary, buying them up can have harmful effects for those who do need them.

READ MORE: Canada’s chief public health officer says no vaccine for coronavirus for a year

READ MORE: Feds preparing plane to fly Canadians out of Wuhan, once China gives OK

The only masks that are effective in stopping the spread of coronavirus are called N95 masks, a type of heavy-duty mask used in hospitals and higher-risk situations.

“People who are immunocompromised, those who are going through chemotherapy and right now they can’t get access to them,” Del Negro said.

“We shouldn’t be panicking and wiping out all the stock that’s out there. We have nothing in-store.”

But aside from the less-than-helpful masks, Del Negro said there’s lots of things people can do.

While washing with soap and water is idea, he said hand sanitizer is the next best thing.

Aside from that, Del Negro said it can help to sanitize household surfaces and door knobs with Lysol or similar cleaners, and to avoid touching your face after touching the not-so-clean surfaces on transit or in other public areas.

Del Negro said much of the panic surrounding the new virus is due to memories of SARS, which killed 44 people in Canada during the 2003 outbreak.

“It was a very scary time,” he said. “But at the present time, the risk is very low.”

There are currently three confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Canada. They include a husband and wife in Toronto and a man in the Vancouver area, all three of whom started showing symptoms after returning from Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicentre. American authorities said they saw their first case of human-to-human transmission this week and the World Health Organization declared it a global emergency Thursday.

READ MORE: World Health Organization declares coronavirus a global emergency

However, the Canadian cases, Del Negro said, are very isolated and haven’t led to any further infection.

The newness of this coronavirus, he said, is part of the reason it has people scared more than a disease like the flu, which kills 3,500 Canadians each year.

Although Del Negro didn’t want to play down the potential harms, he did note it’s only this strain of the coronavirus, passed from animal to humans, that’s new. Coronavirus encompasses a large group of viruses, which can cause everything from the common cold, to SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Anyone who does think they’re infected should stay isolated, make sure to cough into the crook of their elbow instead of their hand, and visit a healthcare professional.

VIDEO: Lab confirms B.C. case of new coronavirus, bringing total to 3 in Canada


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health officials outline pandemic response in virtual town hall

Kelowna-Lake County MLA Norm Letnick moderates digital discussion, Q&A with Interior Health leadership

MP Morrison touts non-partisan effort to provide relief amid COVID-19 pandemic

The federal government has announced a slew of economic initiatives for those impacted by the pandemic

Local business provides first responders with 22 bottles of hand-sanitizer amid shortages

By: Jesse Heinrichs A hand-sanitizer shortage has hit some of the people… Continue reading

Veterinary clinics considered essential services, continue to help animals

The B.C. government recently released an official list of businesses that are… Continue reading

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

This is up from the previously announced 10 per cent wage subsidy

World update, 9:30 p.m. March 27: Positive news in Korea as U.S. hits 100,000 cases

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases of any country in the world

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

67 more B.C. COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Vancouver region

Positive tests found in Surrey, Langley long-term care facilities

‘Now is not the time to bag that peak’: BCSAR manager discourages risky outdoor adventures

Call volumes are not going down, even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists

Food Banks BC already seeing surge in demand due to COVID-19 pandemic

Executive director Laura Lansink said they expect applications will keep increasing

Nanaimo couple caught aboard cruise ship with four dead and COVID-19 present

Four ‘older guests’ have died on Holland America’s Zaandam; cruise line confirms two COVID-19 cases

Frontline workers receiving COVID-19 isolation exemptions prompt concerns

Provincial Health Authority staff exempt from self-isolation upon return from international travel

Most Read