The number of confirmed enterovirus D68 cases in the province has more than doubled in the past week, according to new figures from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
As of Oct. 30, the B.C. provincial laboratory has confirmed 119 cases of enterovirus D68, compared to 56 confirmed cases a week ago, the health agency reported in its weekly provincial flu surveillance bulletin.
The increase in confirmed cases comes in the wake of the death two weeks ago of a Lower Mainland man in his early 20s who contracted the illness.
At the time, Dr. Danuta Skowronski, lead epidemiologist for the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, told reporters she expected to see an increase in confirmed cases in the coming weeks as flu season gets underway.
However, she said the number of cases is expected to decrease as temperatures drop.
“Enteroviruses like the summer and fall,” she said. “As we get deeper into the fall, we ought to see some natural fade out of enteroviruses. The winter is not their preferred seasonality.”
The age range of patients infected with the virus range from less than one-year-old to over 80, with 73 of the confirmed cases in children up to the age of nine.
Another 15 confirmed cases are in youth between 10 and 14, and five are between 15 and 19. Twenty-six of the confirmed cases are in adults older than 20.
The cases come from all health authorities in the province, and the majority of cases — 58 per cent — are male, the reasons for which are unclear.
Another three patients with confirmed enterovirus D68 have also developed symptoms of paralysis, but doctors aren’t sure to what extent the virus is responsible for the symptoms.
Enterovirus D68 is a rare but known virus that can cause severe breathing problems in children, especially those with asthma.
Most people who become infected enterovirus D68 will experience symptoms no worse than a mild cold, but people of any age with underlying respiratory conditions like asthma are at risk of complications from the illness.
Since mid-August, an outbreak of the virus in North America has sent a rash of children and young people to hospital.
As of Oct. 31, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,105 people in 47 states with laboratory-confirmed enterovirus D68 in the U.S.
Skowronski urged people with asthma or other underlying respiratory conditions to seek medical care if they experience shortness of breath.
“You won’t know if you have D68,” she said. “But generally, people with asthma, when they have respiratory viruses that can trigger an exacerbation, it sometimes requires urgent care to recover from that.”