EDMONTON -- In a bid to slow the potential spread of novel coronavirus, Alberta's health ministry is asking anyone who has recently returned from China's Hubei province to isolate themselves.

There are no confirmed or probable cases of the virus in Alberta and only five in Canada, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health, said Thursday.

But after receiving guidance from Public Health Canada, the ministry is taking the precautionary step of urging self-isolation for travellers back from Hubei, the epicentre of the China coronavirus outbreak.

"Self-isolation means staying home and avoiding others. It means avoiding work, school, social events or other public gatherings where it is likely there would be close contact with other people," Hinshaw said.

Still no coronavirus in Alberta; province 'ready to respond' if needed

She reminded Albertans that the most likely cause of symptoms like coughing, fever or difficulty breathing is the common influenza.

She also urged people to not aim their concerns or assumptions about the risk of coronavirus at people based on their ethnicity or country of origin.

It's likely the advisory only affects a small number of Albertans, and travellers from other parts of mainland China are not being asked to isolate themselves.

Around 70 travellers to Hubei province have come back to Canada in the last 14 days, Hinshaw said. It's unclear if any of those travellers are coming back to Alberta.

"What we've seen is that the spectrum of symptoms in people who get ill…is quite wide," Hinshaw said. "Because of this evidence and because in early cases, some people may have very mild symptoms they may not associate [with coronavirus]."

As of Jan. 31, 18 people in Alberta had been tested for novel coronavirus as of Jan. 31, but none of those tests came back positive.

Updated numbers on testing were expected Friday.

Canada is preparing to board 211 citizens currently in Wuhan, China to depart for CFB Trenton in Ontario where they will remain in self-isolation for two weeks.

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 28,000 people and killed more than 560 worldwide.