Public Health Sudbury & Districts received confirmation from Public Health Ontario that an individual in our service area has tested positive for the COVID-19 UK variant (B.1.1.7). This confirmation follows the report on January 25 of a possible case of a more highly transmissible strain of COVID-19. In addition, Public Health has been notified of three further possible cases in individuals in our area. Two are individuals who had returned from international travel who were completing quarantine. The other is in an individual who was self-isolating as a contact of a known case of a COVID-19 variant of concern (VOC) in another public health unit jurisdiction. Further confirmatory sequencing of these three additional samples is underway.
“The confirmation of the new COVID-19 variant of concern in our service area is a reminder that we are all vulnerable and we are not somehow specially protected,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. “The virus spreads in the same way as regular COVID-19, but it is much more infectious. This can result in more cases, which means that more people could become seriously ill, while others may lose their lives. The key message to slow the spread as long as possible is that we must ramp up our prevention measures and truly limit or even avoid our contact with people outside of our own household,” added Dr. Sutcliffe.
As there is evidence that these variants spread more quickly, intensified case and contact measures are being taken and include extending the isolation duration for the case, more readily identifying close contacts, and ensuring isolation of all household contacts of confirmed or probable cases as quickly as possible. Like with all confirmed cases, Public Health was in contact with the individual with the confirmed COVID-19 UK variant to review their initial positive COVID-19 test result and investigate possible exposure settings as well as any close contacts.
There is no evidence to date of spread of the COVID-19 variants in our service area; however, COVID-19 variants are present in Ontario, and we are not immune to their spread in the north. Early evidence shows that vaccines are anticipated to be effective against this new variant.
Prevent the spread of COVID-19
The rate at which these new variants can spread is alarming, so it is more important than ever to contain the virus as much as possible. Through our choices and actions, we can make it much more difficult for COVID-19 to spread. Everyone can recommit to the behaviours that prevent transmission and continue to follow public health guidance.
- Stay-at-home: remain at home except for essential purposes such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise, or for essential work or school.
- All non-essential travel should be avoided. Area residents are being exposed to the virus through travel outside our region. Stay in the area of your home community or stay in the region.
- Get tested for COVID-19 if you have any symptoms.
- The vaccine is highly recommended for all eligible individuals.
- Learn more about vaccine safety and make an informed decision to choose to get vaccinated when the time comes.
- Practise physical distancing, because any close contact could be a possible exposure to COVID-19.
- Continue to work remotely, where possible.
- Masks or face coverings must be worn in all indoor public places in Sudbury and districts.
- Masks or face coverings should also be worn where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- Wash your hands often and when visibly dirty for 15 seconds.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm or a tissue, throw away the tissue, and wash your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Download the COVID Alert app.
For more information or if you have questions, please visit phsd.ca/COVID-19 or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).