Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some can cause illness in people and others can cause illness in animals. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illness, similar to the common cold.
COVID-19 is a new disease that has not been previously identified in humans. It causes a respiratory infection that can be spread from person to person through close contact.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can be mild to severe and are similar to a cold or flu. A list of symptoms can be found on the Stay Home When Sick page. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. This is the longest known incubation period for this disease.
COVID-19 mainly causes infections of the nose, throat and lungs. Infected individuals are most contagious when they are sick and 48 hours before they show symptoms. COVID-19 is most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- respiratory droplets generated when coughing, sneezing or talking
- close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, that is within 2 metres and for at least 15 minutes
The virus can land on surfaces and survive for hours, but it does not spread easily this way. However, touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands can spread the virus.
The virus does not spread through the air, so building residents are not at great risk from shared vents and individuals quickly passing by another person is not at greater risk.
Recent evidence indicates that the virus can be transmitted to others from someone who is infected but not showing symptoms. This includes people who have not yet developed symptoms (pre-symptomatic) or who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic).
Here are some infection and prevention control measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19:
- Stay home as much as possible.
- Wash your hands frequently using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (minimum 60% alcohol).
- Avoid touching face, in particular your mouth, nose or eyes, especially with unwashed hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your upper sleeve or elbow when you cough or sneeze. Immediately throw away used tissues and wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Wear a non-medical mask or face covering when physical distancing is difficult to maintain.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch areas frequently.
- Practice physical distancing by staying two meters away from others.
- Avoid all non-essential gatherings of any size.
- All people who are sick should stay at home.
To learn more visit the Stop the Spread page.
Diagnosis, Testing and Treatment
Coronavirus infections are diagnosed by a healthcare provider based on symptoms and are confirmed through laboratory tests. The Assessment Centre in Thunder Bay is located on-site outside of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s Emergency Department. The Assessment Centre is only available to those who have been directed there by the Thunder Bay District Health Unit or Telehealth Ontario to attend it. The need to perform a COVID-19 swab test will be determined by strict medical directives as outlined by the province.
It can take up to 9 days to receive test results for COVID-19. Please continue to self-isolate while awaiting test results. Waiting time is subject to change based on laboratory resources and capacity (e.g. weekends and location of testing).
The COVID-19 test is most commonly done by nasopharyngeal swab. The health care provider has the person put their head back slightly and inserts a flexible swab through one nostril deep into the back of the nose. After rotating the swab gently and leaving in place for a few seconds, they will carefully remove the swab. The collected specimen is put into a transport vial, and along with all necessary documentation, will be sent to the lab where the analysis will be performed.
Case and contact management is a core competency of public health. This includes identifying close contacts for every positive COVID-19 case in the Thunder Bay District. The identification and management of these close contacts is one of the tools public health uses to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit also completes case and contact management for other infectious diseases such as sexually transmitted infections (e.g. chlamydia and gonorrhea), blood borne viruses like HIV and Hepatitis C, and Tuberculosis.
With regards to confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the TBDHU area, individuals who are have not been contacted by public health would not be considered a close contact of confirmed cases.
For more details, watch this short video on how Case and Contact Management is carried out.
There are different types of close contacts:
- 𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘴 (people who live in the same house) are generally the highest risk group with most exposure;
- 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘴 are sorted out based on whether the case had symptoms at the time of their exposure and what the length of time together was. The community contacts could be people in close contact during flights, close contact in personal care, or other people the person had interacted with closely for a significant amount of time.
- Other individuals who had similar close physical contact including face-to-face contact within 2 metres AND for more than 15 minutes.
- A public health nurse will contact any individual that is found to be a “close contact” of a person with COVID-19 and will provide further instructions.
If the Health Unit needs to contact you due to possible risk of exposure to COVID-19, the process to contact is first by phone. If unreachable by phone, you may receive a:
- Home visit;
- Letter by mail;
- Social media direct message;
- Text requesting to call the health unit.
There have been reports of texts and/or emails going around suggesting the recipient has been exposed to COVID-19 and to click a link. This is a scam! TBDHU will never ask you to click a link. Beware of people trying to take advantage of these tough times.
The immune response to COVID-19 is not yet understood. Experts expect that the majority of people who recover from COVID-19 will gain immunity to it for at least some amount of time - what is unknown is for how long.
At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 or any natural health products that are authorized to treat or protect against COVID-19. Most people with mild coronavirus will recover on their own. Your healthcare provider may recommend steps you can take to relieve symptoms. Contact your healthcare provide as soon as possible if:
- you are concerned about your symptoms or
- you have a travel history to a region where severe coronaviruses are known to occur
The sooner you consult your health care provider, the better your chances are for recovery.
Once a confirmed case is discharged from self-isolation, they are considered a resolved case and are no longer infectious. In order to be resolved, the individual must have completed at least 14 days of self-isolation from symptom onset AND must not have a fever AND their symptoms must be improving.
Please note: Hospitalized patients and health care workers have different criteria for discontinuing self-isolation and will follow the directions provided by the hospital or their employer (e.g. Occupational Health and Safety).
Physical Distancing, Self-Isolation and Self-Monitoring
Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come in close contact with. This will help to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Everyone in the Thunder Bay District should be practicing physical distancing. Examples of physical distancing include, but are not limited to:
- staying home as much as possible
- limiting non-essential trips in the community
- avoiding handshakes and direct contact with others
- maintaining a 2 metre distance from others
- cancelling group gatherings
For more information on physical distancing, please visit: Physical Distancing
Self-monitoring is when you watch your health for symptoms of COVID-19. Everyone should be self-monitoring for symptoms, no matter how mild. A list of symptoms can be found on the Stay Home When Sick page. If you develop symptoms, call TBDHU at (807) 625-5900 or Toll-Free at 1 (888) 294-6630 to be assessed for testing.
Self-isolation is when a person has been instructed to separate themselves from others with the purpose of preventing the spread of the virus, including from those within their home.
For more information on self-isolation, please visit: Self-Isolation
Do not go outside for a walk, bike ride, etc. If you do not have any symptoms, you can go in your own backyard and property but must ensure you can keep 2 metres from any public space. If you do have symptoms, you must stay indoors.
If you live in an apartment, do not go into any communal or shared areas, such as hallways, gym, public washrooms, elevators, stairwells, laundry rooms, etc.
Do not leave your place of isolation unless it's to seek medical attention.
Read more about what Self-Isolation means practically for different situations.
If the person who returned from travel is self-isolating but DOES NOT HAVE symptoms, then housemates can self-monitor.
If the person who returned from travel HAS or develops symptoms, then they should be self-isolating and housemates should self-isolate as well.
As of March 30, 2020 the Ontario Government has prohibited gatherings of 5 or more people to limit the spread of COVID-19. It recommended that gatherings of 5 or less people are limited to people within your household or essential tasks (e.g. work, healthcare needs).
We all have to do our part to protect ourselves and others by following this important measure. As individuals, we are responsible for ensuring our actions do not put others at risk. We can also educate and encourage others to do the same.
Employees in impacted workplaces can discuss these cases with their employers to ensure that everyone has the needed information to ensure safety for everyone.
There is currently no evidence that pets or other domestic animals play a significant role in the spread of COVID-19.
There have been reports of people with COVID-19 spreading the virus to their pet dog or cat. If you have COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case, until your illness is resolved you should:
- Avoid close contact with animals.
- Practice good hygiene, including hand washing.
- If possible, have another member of your household care for your animals.
- Restrict your animal’s contact with other people and animals outside the household.
Until we know more it is recommended that you if you are sick, you avoid contact with pets and other animals, just like you would other people. Find out more from Public Health Ontario and Public Health Agency of Canada.
Persons walking outdoors with their pets should be at minimal risk of contracting the virus provided they maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from others.
Everyone should be prepared to immediately self-isolate for 14 days should they develop symptoms of COVID-19 or come into close contact with a positive case. It is recommended that households plan ahead should any member of the household be required to self-isolate. For more details on what to do to be prepared, visit the Emergencies & Being Prepared page.
No, there has been no demonstrated case of any of the family of viruses to which the novel coronavirus belongs being transmitted by a mosquito or fly. The virus that cause COVID-19 spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. You can also become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.
Celebrating a birthday, anniversary or other occasion might look different these days, but here are some ways to make the day memorable:
- Hold an online dance party with friends.
- Play pin the tail on the donkey, with virtual loves ones yelling out directions.
- Spend time together baking and decorating a cake or preparing a favourite meal.
- Have friends send video messages, skits or songs.
If you decide to participate in a drive-by greeting, please keep these things in mind:
- Refrain from gathering in groups to plan the activity.
- Maintain physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from all people outside of your own household.
- Be conscious not to obstruct traffic by limiting the number of people and cars involved and follow all traffic laws.
Hosting a garage or yard sale is not recommended. At these types of events, it can be very difficult to limit the number of people on the property to no more than five at one time (as per current provincial orders), as well as maintain physical distancing measures.
Buying and selling of second-hand items privately is allowed at the buyer/sellers own risk. In order to remain compliant with emergency orders and to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, certain precautions should be taken. When buying/selling items privately:
- Ensure items are cleaned and disinfected properly.
- Use contactless payment through electronic money transfer.
- Offer contactless pick-up or drop-off, such as doorstep or curbside.
At this time, real estate service providers are prohibited from hosting or supporting open houses. While private home owners don’t fall under this same restriction, you are still limited to the number of people that can be in your home at one time. Hosting an open house and having more than 5 people in your home would be considered hosting a ‘gathering’, which is prohibited at this time. Residents who are selling a home are encouraged to find other ways of showing it, such as through virtual tours, or in the very least, arrange only private viewings.
If you MUST hold an open house, or book a private showing of your home:
- Provide hand sanitizer to those coming through your house.
- Turn on lights and open doors so that people don’t have to touch them.
- Maintain 2 metres (6 feet) distance from others at all times.
- Disinfect any surfaces that may have been touched after each viewing.