Vancouver – The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is reminding British Columbians to take precautions, including proper hand hygiene and staying home when ill, to protect themselves 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, the first in nearly two years.
“As of mid-September, 2016, five children, including four under the age of two, have had confirmed EV-D68 infections,” said Dr. Mel Krajden, the Medical Director of the Public Health Laboratory.
“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 four of the cases 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.
“Most affected people will have only mild illness,” emphasized Dr. Skowronski. “But in rare cases, muscle weakness or paralysis has been reported and for those with asthma the respiratory symptoms can be more serious. Prompt medical care is important for those who experience difficulty breathing.”
It has been nearly two years since EV-D68 was last detected in BC. During the fall 2014 there were about 220 confirmed cases and about 140 hospitalizations reported. Cases were initially detected in August and peaked later in October. Several other provinces and US states also experienced outbreaks. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for EV-D68 but some basic measures can help reduce the risk.
Recommendations to reduce risk:
- Wash hands with plain soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Stay at home if ill with new respiratory symptoms like cold or flu.
- Cough into elbow sleeve rather than hands.
- Avoid sharing cups and utensils.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Disinfect frequently-touched surfaces like doorknobs.
- 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 causes mild to severe respiratory illness.
- It 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 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.
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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