Three people tested positive for coronavirus at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg

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Three people from the National Microbiology Laboratory tested positive for the coronavirus, staff at the Winnipeg facility said on Thursday by email.

The three people, who tested positive on the spot, are now isolated, laboratory executive director Steven Guercio said in the email, which was obtained by CBC News.

“Manitoba Health has started contact tracing,” said Guercio, referring to the practice of finding out all the people an infected person could have contacted before their test.

“As a proactive measure, occupational health and safety in the workplace has undertaken a risk assessment and will ask potential at-risk contacts to isolate themselves at home while waiting for a complete search for contacts by Manitoba Health”, added Guercio.

“The close contacts identified through contact tracing will receive instructions from MB Health on testing and isolation requirements. “

Guercio also told staff that laboratory management “understands that this news will cause concern” and advised them to contact employee support if they need it.

All staff members were also asked to wash their hands when leaving the building.

Close contacts tested

Guercio’s office has forwarded their comments to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), which is responsible for the microbiology laboratory.

The agency was not immediately available to comment.

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Shared Health Manitoba also deferred comments to the agency.

A spokesperson for Shared Health said the province only comments on infections if there is a public health problem.

The union leader representing scientists and researchers does not know if one of the infected is his member, but Debi Daviau said he was told that at least one was a laboratory worker.

Daviau, President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said that Health Canada performed contact tracing in all three cases – all close contacts have been tested and sent home and should get their test results this evening or tomorrow.

Non-close contacts have been invited to stay at work for the moment, but they have also been tested. If they are positive, they will be sent home for self-quarantine.

Research includes coronavirus

Laboratory work includes research on SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Researchers are trying to find an appropriate animal model for research as they work on a vaccine and treatment for respiratory disease, said Daviau.

They are also researching how to sterilize N95 masks to reuse.

“They work 24 hours a day. Their work is essential. They work with the virus, so the potential for exposure is high, “she said.

“These members are some of Canada’s unsung heroes. “

The NML had planned a driving test site for employees and their families, said Daviau, adding that the PHAC is handling the situation well.

“PHAC responded quickly, and fortunately, with on-site infectious disease experts, they implemented reactive screening, tracing and isolation measures. We appreciate the urgent action and the support for the safety of the employees on site, “she said.

Some lab staff chose to work from home during this time, but Daviau said others told him “work is too important” to close the building.

Meanwhile, the union representing staff, including laboratory technicians, as well as building, administrative and program operations staff, is waiting to find out if any of its members have been infected.

“Our primary concern is the health and safety of our members and all employees of the NML,” said Shimen Fayad, Acting National President of the Union of Health and Environment Workers, in an email. .

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