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Travellers wearing face masks sanitize their hands at Hong Kong International Airport on Jan. 21, 2020.

The Associated Press

British Columbia’s health minister and provincial health officer say officials are closely monitoring an international outbreak of respiratory illness linked to a novel coronavirus after a case was confirmed across the border in Washington state Tuesday.

Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry say in a joint statement there have been no cases of illness caused by the coronavirus in Canada and the risk to British Columbians is considered low.

However, they say health-care workers have been asked to be vigilant and take a travel history for anyone reporting respiratory symptoms following an outbreak first identified in China.

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The BC Centre for Disease Control has developed a diagnostic test for the new coronavirus, which is different from the SARS outbreak when there was no similar test.

Public health teams have also implemented screening for early detection of infections for travellers arriving in airports.

Dix and Henry say quarantine officers are available at Vancouver International Airport to co-ordinate response and Richmond Hospital infection control practitioners are ready to respond should there be a need to investigate.

Health-care workers who suspect an instance of coronavirus are asked to report it to their local medical health officers immediately.

“Anyone who is concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus should contact their primary care provider, local public health office or call 811,” the joint statement says.

“We encourage anyone travelling to or from China to visit the federal source of destination-specific travel information that provides important advice to help travellers make informed decisions and travel safely while abroad.”

Most cases of the illness have been reported in Wuhan and other cities in China, with smaller numbers reported in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand.

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The first case in the United States was reported Tuesday in Washington state, where a resident had recently returned from travel to Wuhan.

Canada’s chief public health officer says Canadians are at low risk of contracting a new coronavirus that originated in China. In Winnipeg Tuesday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu spoke about the outbreak after the federal cabinet meeting. The Canadian Press

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