Aside from a parent-planned Chinese New Year celebrationbeing cancelled out of “an abundance of caution,” a Chinese New Year celebration at Meadowridge School went ahead despite fears of the novel coronavirus.
“At the moment we would be more concerned about the flu’s going around, and the traffic on the side of the school,” said Meadowridge School headmaster Hugh Burke.
On Jan. 30, Burke posted a message about the virus in response to a message sent from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Federation of Independent School’s Association following the confirmation of the first case of novel coronavirus in the province on Jan. 28.
In the message, Burke said the school is following “closely” the advice of the World Health Organization, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, and provincial and local health authorities. Those tips include increasing the disinfecting of common surfaces, plus reminding students to wash their hands, keep their hands away from their mouth and eyes, cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing, use hand sanitizer in addition to hand washing, and stay home if anyone is sick.
Burke said the measures that are in place are not strictly for the coronavirus, but for the seasonal flu.
“There’s a flu going around, a couple of flu’s and at the moment, that probably concerns me more than the Wuhan virus,” said the headmaster.
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans.
Some of the coronaviruses infect people and are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS.
However, the novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, is a new strain of coronavirus that had not been previously identified in humans and was not previously detected before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019, said the agency.
To date, the WHO reports, 24,554 cases of the virus have been confirmed worldwide, including 3,925 new cases. A majority of those cases, 24,363 to be exact, have been confirmed in China, including 3,893 new ones. So far 491 people have died from the virus within China and only one person has died from the virus outside of the country.
Yet, between 290,000 to 650,000 people die every year from respiratory diseases linked to the seasonal flu globally, reports the WHO. Most of these deaths, according to the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention occur among people more than 75-years-old and in the world’s poorest regions.
Irena Pochop with School District 42 also confirmed there has been no impact to programming in the local public schools.
Within the last two weeks the school district has sent out two notices, one on Jan. 25 and the other on Jan. 29, updating parents on the novel coronavirus.
“The public health officer has advised that the risk to general public, including school-age children, is very low,” said Pochop, adding that they are in regular communication with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, and Fraser Health and they will continue to provide more updates as they become available.
Burke noted that in a message from B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, she says that masks are mostly useful for those who are already sick or for medical personnel. The masks have not demonstrated themselves as a useful prevention method.
He also reminded parents that hand washing is the most effective preventative measure.
Normally staff and students shake hands every morning, but generally during flu season, they verbally greet each other instead, Burke explained.
On Tuesday Meadowridge School held its annual Lion Dance celebration for the Chinese New Year, as planned.
“Really, there are two cases in British Columbia,” Burke said about the novel coronavirus.“I am a little more concerned of our kids walking to the corner.”