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

Conservation Officer warns to reduce attractants

‘Spring is coming and bears have already been spotted’

B.C. wide burning restrictions come into effect April 16

‘Larger open burns pose an unnecessary risk and could detract from wildfire detection’

South Cariboo Farmers’ Market to operate with food vendors only

‘There will be no non-food vendors until further notice’

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Most Read