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Should I be concerned about the outbreak at the meat-packing plant? Your COVID-19 questions answered,,on April 22, 2020 at 8:00 am
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Should I be concerned about the outbreak at the meat-packing plant? Your COVID-19 questions answered,,on April 22, 2020 at 8:00 am

We’re answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’ll publish a selection of answers every weekday online, and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network.

So far we’ve received more than 20,000 emails from all corners of the country. Your questions have surprised us, stumped us and got us thinking.

Should we worry about the COVID-19 outbreak at the meat-packing plant in Alberta?

Jim M. sent us a question about whether meat processed by a worker with COVID-19 could be contaminated.

This week, Cargill temporarily closed its High River, Alta., meat-processing plant after one worker died, and hundreds more became ill.

Is the meat from this plant at risk? Likely not, since COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, there have been no reported cases of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of the coronavirus.

“The virus is passed through person-to-person contact,” said Siyun Wang, associate professor at the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia. “What happened in the meat-packing plant in Alberta was also due to person-to-person contact.”

This means it’s unlikely any consumers could be at risk. Jeffrey Farber, director of the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety and a professor at the University of Guelph says, while it is “theoretically possible,” the actual risk is “extremely low.”

“If a person sneezes or coughs directly on the meat, then the aerosol droplets could theoretically land on the meat,” he said, but adds that, because workers often wear masks, it’s not a concern.

So what happens if a droplet manages to land on your meat? Farber says the period of time it takes for that product to reach your dinner plate would also result “in a further reduction in any viral particles that may be present.”

Cooking meat also destroys the virus. Wang recommends everyone wash their hands before and after preparing food, to make sure raw meat is cooked to a proper internal temperature, and to separate raw meat from ready-to-eat foods.

What’s the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a public bathroom?

Right now, most public places are closed. However, many people, including Shein P., are wondering whether public bathrooms are risky.

It depends. The biggest risk in a public bathroom is the doorknob, tap handles and any other high-traffic surfaces, says Dr. Lynora Saxinger, infectious disease physician and associate professor at the University of Alberta.

Saxinger adds some research suggests the coronavirus can be present in feces, but cautions it’s unlikely anyone would contract COVID-19 that way in a public bathroom.

“I guess there is a theoretical risk, but the risk would only be if you inhale it, and it’s fairly unusual to inhale feces.”

Bottom line? Public bathrooms are safe if you wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, and avoid touching your face.

Here is more information from Health Canada about how to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Is it safe to take my baby to the pediatrician?

During this pandemic, we’re hearing from many people, including Efy M., who are worried about going to the doctor.

Many non-urgent visits are already either being rescheduled or moved online, and that’s a good thing, Saxinger says. She advises Efy to “reserve the in-patient visits for things that are required, like vaccines.”

For more on this answer and to see what other Canadians are asking, watch the CBC News COVID-19 townhall.

WATCH | Should I take my baby to the pediatrician?

Efy M. from Toronto is wondering if it’s safe for her to take her 9 month to the pediatrician. 0:25

Should I leave my fever untreated?

Patricia P. wants to know whether using Tylenol to treat her fever will affect her immune response. There seems to be a lot of online debate about this question, so here’s what you need to know:

See Also

If you have a fever and want to treat it, acetaminophen is OK.

However, a very high fever can be dangerous, and should not go untreated. Family physician and CBC medical specialist Dr. Peter Lin says a patient with a high fever who looks sick, and experiences hallucinations, chills or shaking, difficulty keeping fluids down, difficulty breathing or speaking, should consider seeking medical attention.

Saxinger says there is no data to suggest that treating fevers with medication affects the body’s immune response to the coronavirus, and she advises patients treat their fevers with medication as long as the dose is correct.

“I would say that it is reasonable to treat fevers with over-the-counter medications, as they can help relieve symptoms. We generally try to offer symptom therapy when we have no suggestion of harm,” she says.

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, this advice also applies to children.

During the beginning of this pandemic, there were conflicting reports about whether ibuprofen could make COVID-19 symptoms worse, but the World Health Organization has said there’s no evidence to suggest this is true, a statement that was reiterated by Health Canada.

We’re also answering your questions every night on The National. Last night, we asked infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch if it’s safe to attend a funeral. Watch below:

An infectious disease specialist answers your questions about COVID-19, including whether it’s safe to attend a funeral. 2:39

Tuesday we answered questions about reusing masks and possible drug treatments.

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

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