British Columbia

B.C. promises weekly updates on flu deaths as 6 children confirmed dead this fall

B.C.’s provincial health officer is promising weekly updates on the number of children who’ve died after contracting influenza following confirmation that six deaths have already been reported so far this fall.

Deaths this year include 1 child under 5, 3 between ages of 5 and 9 and 2 teenagers, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

A child receives her influenza vaccine with her family at a Fraser Health vaccination clinic in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.
B.C. health officials are urging parents to have their kids vaccinated against the flu in light of an early and intense surge in cases. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C.'s provincial health officer is promising weekly updates on the number of children who've died after contracting influenza following confirmation that six deaths have already been reported so far this fall.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said the deaths this year include one child under the age of five, three between the ages of five and nine and two teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19.

"My thoughts are with families and communities impacted by the loss of a loved one," Henry said in a statement.

"Early findings indicate some of the children experienced secondary bacterial infections contributing to severe illness, which can be a complication of influenza."

She added that deaths have been rare in "previously healthy children" and that infants and toddlers, children with chronic medical conditions, kids who need to take Aspirin or ASA for long periods of time and very obese children are most at risk.

"Parents of all children should seek care if your child experiences difficulty breathing or if your child's fever goes away and comes back or persists longer than five days. This may indicate a possible bacterial infection," Henry said.

She described the flu season so far as an "unusual season with unusual characteristics," including an early and serious surge in cases. As a result, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control will be posting weekly updates on pediatric flu-related deaths on its website.

B.C. health officials have urged parents to have children vaccinated against the flu, citing a "dramatic increase" in cases of influenza A, a strain which can cause severe illness in children. 

Historical data provided by the B.C. Coroners Service showed the number of deaths this year to be well above previous flu seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Between 2015 and 2019, B.C. recorded two to three influenza-related deaths in people aged 18 or younger annually. In 2020, the province recorded one death, while none were recorded in 2021.

With files from Michelle Ghoussoub

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