Quebec suffers ‘unprecedented’ rise in fatal coronavirus cases

Image copyright AFP Image caption Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette described the new cases as “a high number”

Canada’s Canadian province of Quebec has reported 707 new cases of the deadly coronavirus, including three deaths.

The news follows a report in the New England Journal of Medicine showing the spread of the virus across the north of the country.

Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said the number of confirmed cases was running at seven times the World Health Organization’s latest annual average.

The coronavirus is a cousin of Sars and MERS – and causes severe, sometimes fatal inflammation of the lungs.

Quebec has been one of the areas worst hit by the disease, which led to 169 deaths in Australia in 2003.

The NEW England Journal of Medicine report is the first global estimate of the global rate of the virus.

The report suggests there has been a steady rise in the number of cases in the northern hemisphere since 2015, and the rate has been accelerating in North America.

Odourless and harmless

In Canada, where most of the cases have been reported, the first case was reported at the end of 2017, after a traveller from Afghanistan came down with the virus on a visit to Quebec.

“The situation in Quebec is currently similar to the situation in Australia in 2003,” Mr Barrette said.

In 2003, the virus led to the deaths of 163 people in the North America.

While the spread of the virus is considered a threat to the population, it is considered largely harmless, with most people reporting the symptoms for a few days and recover if they use their nose and mouth to mask the smell of the illness.

Image copyright Archive/Getty Images Image caption Some people may experience nausea, vomiting, and a mild flu-like illness

The WHO advises travellers not to panic, as many flu-like symptoms in people returning from overseas travel have no scientific connection to the coronavirus.

The WHO classifies the virus as an emerging infectious disease. It was first identified in 2012 by scientists in Pakistan, Iran and Jordan, who originally had to work out the structure of a virus that could infect a human.

But they realised that the virus transmitted outside the body was not very different from the way Sars, a severe respiratory illness also caused by a coronavirus, passed through the respiratory tract of mammals.

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Is this the next Sars?

“This current report does not measure the number of new coronavirus cases on a real-time basis, but on an historical year-to-year basis, which indicates an upward trend, although with an inconsistent pattern within the years studied,” said a study of the report in the journal.

While the WHO advises people to avoid travelling to areas with higher cases of the virus, it does not recommend travel restrictions.

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