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

SFU Pipe Band comes to Chilliwack

Champion bagpipers will play on Leap Day

Agassiz Anglican Church hosts benefit dinner

Door prizes, entertainment and a catered dinner

LETTER: We’re all shook up

Harvey Andrew of Agassiz reminisces about earthquakes in a letter.

Barking news: Annual Pet Lover Show returns to Abbotsford!

Largest animal showcase in Western Canada brings fur and feather fun

Hockey 4: Simply for the love of hockey

No scores kept, no MVPs named — in Hope they just play for fun

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

VIDEO: Giants win 10th straight on home ice in Langley

Family Day was about spending time with the fans and dazzling them with a 3-2 victory over Seattle

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

Most Read