Local health authorities escalate response to coronavirus.

Local health authorities are escalating their response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

So far 20 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Ontario.

The Grey Bruce Health Unit said it recognizes the spread of the disease may eventually result in local cases, though none have been identified yet.

The health unit said it is currently in a containment phase in an effort to contain and eliminate the spread of the virus in Grey Bruce.

"There's a growing possibility of this situation, which has for some time felt like it's elsewhere, for that to be travelling here to our own region," said Acting Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Linna Li.

However, Dr. Li said she is also confident in the system in place to catch new cases and prevent the spread of the virus.

All the cases are linked to travel to areas experiencing high-level outbreaks. Dr. Li said the key is preventing secondary local spread in Ontario, which has been very effective.

"I don't think it's inevitable that the cases will spread across Ontario, event further than that, I think it's less likely even then, for the cases to spread in Grey Bruce," she said.

Residents who have returned from recent international travel and become ill with respiratory symptoms such as a cough and fever should report their travel history to any health professional, or any emergency room before they visit. Please contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 for questions specific to an individual health concern.

The main message right now is prevention, which means everyone needs to wash their hands with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand sanitizer often while coughing into the elbow.

Avoid sick people, and avoid touching your face. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly, and stay home if you're sick.

Residents should fill prescriptions and stock up on supplies, to reduce the need to go out if a virus outbreak occurs.

As efforts ramp up, the health unit may move to a Mitigation and Response Phase; responding to infectious diseases and outbreaks in the community.

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