Enterovirus D68: 3 confirmed cases in B.C.'s Lower Mainland
Infection presents like a cold, but hits some kids hard and can cause severe breathing problems
A respiratory virus that has been sweeping across the United States in recent weeks has now been confirmed in three people in B.C.
Dr. Mel Krajden, an associate medical director with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), said earlier Tuesday that there were four suspected cases of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) infection in B.C., involving three children and one adult.
Just hours later, the BCCDC said that three suspected cases in the Lower Mainland have been confirmed as EV-D68.
The virus has now also been confirmed to have made at least 18 children ill in Alberta, and is suspected in over a dozen children's hospitalizations in Washington State. Some of the first reports of the virus being detected in multiple cases occurred this summer in Illinois and Missouri.
Medical health officials say the enterovirus is not uncommon, but the D68 strain usually is, and it tends to cause more serious symptoms including wheezing, trouble breathing and loss of appetite.
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"It often affects young kids, typically under the age of four," Krajden said.
No children have died during the outbreak of the strain in the U.S., but doctors there say it has caused unusually severe symptoms.
On Monday, CBC's Andrew Chang sat down with Dr. Erik Swartz, head of pediatrics at Vancouver Coastal Health, to find out what the enterovirus D68 outbreak means for British Columbians.
Watch the video for the full interview, and read some of the highlights below:
CBC News Vancouver at 6 host Andrew Chang: Why are we hearing so much about it now, this sudden uptick, or this surge, this outbreak of the virus?
ES: It's a scary thing. Every few years it seems a virus sort of declares itself and makes children a little bit more sick than we would normally find. It becomes an important story and reminds us that children can get sick very quickly.
AC: What are the symptoms people need to look out for? This is more severe than your common cold, right?
ES: It can be. So it presents, or it starts, just like a typical common cold: runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever—and those things are quite manageable and quite normal for somebody who's sick or a child who is sick.
What we worry about is the progression: So, if the children start having problems breathing, if they aren't as alert as they normally are, if they're not having as much urine produced, if they start getting dehydrated, that's when we run into problems and when they should be seeking medical care.
AC: When we do see that situation, if a parent sees that present itself for one of their kids, what should they be doing as far as treatment?
ES: If it's very minor they can stay at home and see that the child stays hydrated, drinks lots. If it progresses, then of course they should seek medical attention and if it's very severe, there's always the emergency room or 911.
AC: And I guess there's always the question of prevention. What should people be thinking about there, in terms of preventing the spread of this virus?
ES: Really, with any virus the best prevention is good hand hygiene. So, washing of the hands with soap and water, cleaning off hard surfaces and toys, disinfecting things, staying away from people who are sick, and covering your mouth when you cough.
AC: One last thing. You know, funny enough, when it comes to prevention, the fact that kids aren't in school right now may actually be helping, I imagine, inhibit the spread of the virus. When kids do ultimately go back to school, do you see this equation changing somewhat?
ES: It very well may. And you're right, it could be a silver lining in the whole labour dispute we're seeing in B.C.
With files from the CBC's Bal Brach