Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some that cause illness in people and others that cause illness in animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people, and more rarely, these can then spread from person to person through close contact.
Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold.
However, in December 2019, a novel coronavirus causing pneumonia has been detected in Wuhan, China. It is part of the same family as the following two most common coronaviruses:
- The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS CoV)
- The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS CoV)
Many of the initial cases of the new virus were linked to the
Huanan Seafood Market
(also known as Wuhan South China Seafood City and South China Seafood Wholesale Market).
Symptoms have included:
- Difficulty breathing
What you should know
How coronavirus infection spreads
Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- the air by coughing and sneezing;
- close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands; and
- touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) have confirmed person-to-person transmission. However, it is not known how easily the virus spreads from person to person.
What to do
Preventing coronavirus infection
There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection. You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands; and
- avoid close contact with people who are sick.
To date we have no reason to believe that the virus can spread through mail coming from China. We are on the lookout for updates on the coronavirus through provincial health agencies, Health Canada and the World Health Organization, among others.
Workers who are concerned about handling packages or mail from China can obtain nitrile gloves and wear a N-95 disposable mask.
We are well aware that the situation will progress rapidly, and we will let you know as soon as we are informed of new developments.
We ask you to be vigilant and to apply the preventative measures mentioned in this bulletin.
If in doubt, you may invoke your right to refuse under clause 33.13 of the urban collective agreement or Part II of the Canada Labour Code (s. 128).
Health Canada has a new coronavirus information line: 1-833-784-4397.
For more information, do not hesitate to contact your Local Joint Health and Safety Committee representative or a member of your local executive.
**Source: Government of Canada/Health Canada
National Union Representative – Health and Safety