February 6, 2020
As peak flu season starts here in Canada, there have been more than 15,500 cases confirmed compared to about 9,000 this time last year, which is almost double that of 2019 (1). With symptoms being the same as that for coronavirus, the two infections are virtually indistinguishable (2). Many Canadians are fearful that this outbreak is not being managed here at home, and authorities have not been reassuring.
At a press conference on February 4, when questioned by reporters on the current number of people tested for coronavirus, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, reported that they tested a total of 126 patients. However the numbers being reported by the provinces add up to 257 cases. (BC-114, ONT-110, AL-18, SASK-4, QU-9, MN-2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8). Why the huge discrepancy in the numbers being reported? As Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer she would have the national totals? Are Canadian officials purposely withholding information? And if so, why?
In Ontario for example, blood samples collected from “suspected cases” are submitted to PHO Laboratories (Public Health Ontario) and then they are sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, MB for parallel testing (9). Cases are not officially confirmed until after that second test in Winnipeg, which is why some cases are “presumed” (10). The turnaround times for viral respiratory testing is up to 4 days but Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters that the National Microbiology Laboratory will take up to 24 hours to confirm the findings (13). British Colombia is also using the National Microbiology Laboratory for testing (11). Why then is Dr. Theresa Tam under-reporting these numbers? Canadians have the right to know!