Vancouver – The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is reminding British Columbians to take precautions, including cleaning your hands regularly and staying home when ill, to protect yourself and others from respiratory viruses that typically circulate at this time of year.
The reminder comes after BCCDC’s Public Health Laboratory detected several cases of Enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68) in children since mid-August. These are the first laboratory-confirmed cases in B.C. since 2014.
“As of September 14, 2016, eight children, including six under the age of two, have had confirmed EV-D68 infections,” said Dr. Mel Krajden, the Medical Director of the Public Health Laboratory.
EV-D68 is a virus that causes mild to severe respiratory illness. Most people with enterovirus infections have only mild, cold-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. More severe cases can include neurological complications such as muscle weakness or paralysis. People with asthma and other lung conditions are more susceptible to more serious complications.
“The numbers are low so far but we can expect more infections to occur through the fall and early winter period,” said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, epidemiologist with the BCCDC. “That is when EV-D68 and other more common cold viruses tend to circulate.”
The recent cases of EV-D68 are unrelated to each other and were identified in different regions of the province. At least half of the cases to date have required hospitalization and one included neurological illness characterized by arm paralysis, a feature that was also noted during the last peak in EV-D68 cases during the fall of 2014.
“This is the time of year when we see respiratory viruses that cause colds and coughs,” said Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “This year we’re seeing EV-D68 again as well, and while most affected people will have only mild illness the symptoms, for those with asthma it can be more serious. Prompt medical care is important for those who experience difficulty breathing.”
Unlike influenza, for which there is a vaccine available later in the fall when influenza season hits, there is no vaccine or specific treatment for cold viruses or EV-D68. Some basic measures can help reduce the risk of illness caused by respiratory viruses.
Recommendations to reduce risk from seasonal respiratory viruses:
- Wash hands frequently with plain soap and water for 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Stay at home if ill with new respiratory symptoms like cough, sore throat or fever.
- Cough into elbow sleeve rather than hands.
- Avoid sharing cups and utensils.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Get the influenza vaccine when available in November to prevent influenza illness.
- Seek prompt medical care if experiencing difficulty breathing, particularly if there is a history of asthma or other lung condition.
- EV-D68 is a respiratory virus that has been around for many years, but has previously been an uncommon cause of enteroviral infection.
- In most people, enterovirus infections are associated with only mild, common cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, cough, and sneezing, or no symptoms at all.
- Transmission occurs through respiratory secretions and close contact with infected people; however, as with other enteroviruses, EV-D68 may also be spread by fecal-oral transmission.
- Severe outcomes of EV-D68 such as neurological complications (muscle weakness or paralysis) have been noted previously and people with asthma or other lung conditions may experience difficulty breathing. Prompt medical care should be sought in the event these symptoms occur. In rare cases, severe outcomes have included death.
- From August to October 2014, there were about 220 confirmed cases in B.C., with about 140 hospitalizations reported. There were three deaths. Several other provinces and US states also experienced outbreaks.
The BC Centre for Disease Control, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides provincial and national leadership in public health through surveillance, detection, treatment, prevention and consultation services. The Centre provides both direct diagnostic and treatment services for people with diseases of public health importance and analytical and policy support to all levels of government and health authorities For more information, please visit www.bccdc.ca or follow us on Twitter @CDCofBC
The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC.
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