Two of B.C.’s three enterovirus cases in Fraser region

Virus causes severe respiratory illness in children, initial cases may be 'early warning signal'

B.C. Centre for Disease Control epidemiologist Dr. Danuta Skowronski.

Three B.C. residents are the province’s first lab-confirmed cases of a virus causing severe respiratory illness in children elsewhere in North America.

Two of the B.C. cases of enterovirus D68 are children from the Fraser Health region, while the third is a young adult male from the Interior. Both Fraser cases were treated in Vancouver and have since been discharged from hospital.

Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an epidemiologist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said there are at least three more suspected cases and it’s likely numerous others have been exposed to the virus or may have felt only minor symptoms.

So far B.C. hospitals haven’t seen the sharp spike in respiratory illness that could be tied to the virus, which has stricken more than 130 children in a dozen U.S. states and at least 18 in Alberta.

All indicators have been within seasonal levels, Skowronski said.

“We know it’s in the community and it’s not yet associated with outbreaks,” she said.

“But this may be an early warning signal to us that what’s happening elsewhere may be upon us here in B.C.”

Enterovirus activity is seasonal – it peaks in summer and fall – so she said there’s a chance it could soon dissipate here.

Telltale symptoms of enterovirus D68 are wheezing or difficulty breathing deep in the lungs and children with past respiratory trouble, such as asthma, are believed at greater risk.

Most victims don’t have a fever, Skowronksi said, adding absence of one shouldn’t be taken by parents as a sign not to worry.

While most U.S. cases have involved very young pre-schoolers, B.C.’s first three cases are older, ranging from nine to 19 years of age.

Skowronski said the virus is not new – there have been outbreaks of it before – and variants circulate each year.

“We shouldn’t freak out,” she said, noting there have been no deaths and all patients are expected to recover.

But nor should it be dismissed, she added, because it’s causing severe illness, particularly in children, who sometimes require hospitalization and intensive care.

“This may be a particularly nasty variant circulating,” she said.

There’s no vaccine or specific treatment for enterovirus D68, leaving public health officials to stress the usual ways to prevent the spread of viruses – frequent handwashing, coughing into the elbow and staying home if sick with a suspected respiratory infection.

Regular cleaning of surfaces at home and in schools can also help limit the spread, said Fraser Health medical health officer Dr. Michelle Murti.

She noted the end of the B.C. teachers strike may be a factor in the days ahead.

“Kids are going back to school now so there might be more exposure or passing of the illness,” she said. “That’s a time when more germs are spread around.”

Staff at Fraser facilities have been advised to be on alert to the virus and particularly to worsening conditions in children with a history of asthma, Murti said.

Just Posted

Auditors couldn’t tell if Fraser Health executives bought booze on taxpayers’ dime

Review from 2014 says one administrator bought Bose headphones on company credit card

Experts detect risk of rock avalanche above Bridal Falls near Chilliwack

Risk in the one-in-10,000-year is minimal but triggers FVRD to direct growth elsewhere

VIDEO: Olympic medalist teaches swimming in Hope

Brent Hayden fondly remembers local swim meet from his youth

Metro gas prices hit 155.7 cents a litre and higher

Lower Mainland could see 1.60 cents by April

Free parking not in the cards for Fraser Valley hospitals

Chair says board may look at ways to make parking easier, but not free

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Online threat to U.S. high school traced to Canadian teen

A 14-year-old girl has been charged in connection with an online threat against a high school

Vaping device overheats, burns down home on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo Fire Rescue says units could cause fires in other homes and even aircraft

LinkedIn: Top 25 places to work in Canada

LinkedIn has compiled a list of the top companies to work for in 2018

Province warning rabbit owners after confirmed cases of deadly virus

Testing confirmed feral rabbits in Nanaimo and Delta had died from rabbit hemorrhagic disease

Second suspect wanted in attack on autistic man was alleged target in 2015 shooting

Parmvir Chahil lived next door in Abbotsford to victim Ping Shun Ao, killed by stray bullet

Painting of B.C. lake by Winston Churchill sells for $87,000

Churchill had painted the work in 1929 during visit to an area near Field

New lead in one of six B.C. searches that remain unresolved

New details in case of couple who’d been flying from Cranbook to Kamloops when plane disappeared

UPDATE: Surrey man wanted in ‘vicious’ attack on autistic man has criminal history

Ronjot Singh Dhami, 25, is wanted for one count of aggravated assault

Most Read