Enterovirus D68 case tally jumps to 150 in B.C.

Most B.C. patients hospitalized with respiratory illness are children, flu season striking early

The total number of lab-confirmed cases of enterovirus-D68 has jumped again to 150.

The B.C. Centre For Disease Control released new statistics for the week ending Nov. 5 on the virus that has been causing severe respiratory illness, particularly in children and teenagers.

Around 30 new cases are being detected each week, public health officials say.

There was one death in October of a 25-year-old Lower Mainland man with enterovirus D68 who also suffered from asthma. His was the first death in Canada linked to the virus.

BCCDC officials are still unsure to what extent the enterovirus infection caused or contributed to that death or to three other cases of neurological illness in other B.C. patients with who have contracted the virus since August.

Sixty-two per cent of victims so far are children under 10 years old and 57 per cent are male.

Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an epidemiologist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, has said the number of lab-confirmed cases reflect the most ill patients who have been hospitalized, while many more people likely have the virus but have experienced only minor symptoms.

Enterovirus D68 can seem like a cold, but the virus may cause wheezing and breathing difficulties in severe cases, especially children with asthma, and has been linked to temporary paralysis in rare cases.

The virus isn’t new – variants circulate each year and there have been outbreaks before.

There’s no vaccine for it so officials stress hand washing and cleaning surfaces to prevent its spread.

Flu striking early

Regular flu season is striking earlier than usual, the BCCDC says, noting there have been seven influenza outbreaks so far at B.C. long-term care facilities.

Fraser Health says flu vaccination shots are now available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, walk-in clinics and public health flu clinics. (Find locations at http://www.fraserhealth.ca/flushot)

Flu shots are free in B.C. for all children from six months to five years of age, seniors age 65 and up, pregnant women, aboriginal people and those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.

People planning to visit loved ones in a health care facility or who will take family members to outpatient appointments are also eligible for a free flu shot.

Children have the option of getting the Flumist nasal spray instead of the shot.

An estimated 3,500 Canadians die each year from flu complications – mainly seniors and others with underlying conditions. There are more flu-related fatalities than from all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.