Six flu-related deaths among children, youth in B.C.
One child was under five years old, three were between five and nine years old and two were between 15 and 19 years old
The BC Center for Disease Control said there have been six reported flu-related deaths in children and adolescents this fall, with investigations ongoing.
Among the children who died were 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.
The number of such deaths is higher than normal, with data from the BC Coroners Service showing an annual average of two to three flu-related deaths in children and adolescents in the five years before the pandemic hit in 2020.
This year’s respiratory illness season has been particularly severe across Canada, with more children and adolescents being admitted to overcrowded hospitals as influenza, RSV and COVID-19 cases rise.
So far there is no indication that the provincial government will issue mask requirements.
According to the BC Coroners Service, the reported deaths cite influenza as an immediate, pre-existing or underlying cause of death, or as a significant illness.
dr Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Center, told the Vancouver Sun it was a historic year for influenza in British Columbia.
“It’s epic … It’s a big, big deal,” Conway said, noting that already at the start of the season BC has reached the number of flu cases it normally reports for a full year – 4,000.
Reported cases do not capture all flu cases, as only those that test positive, usually in a hospital, are reported.
The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry said early results suggest some of the children suffered secondary bacterial infections that contribute to a serious illness that she says may be a complication of influenza.
“It’s important to realize that influenza-related deaths remain rare in previously healthy children,” Henry said. “This is an unusual season with unusual features, including an early and intense spike in cases. With this unusual pattern, increased surveillance has been implemented, which includes reporting pediatric influenza-related deaths to public health officials.”
Henry said that once the information is confirmed, updates on pediatric influenza-related deaths will be posted weekly as part of respiratory monitoring summaries on the BCCDC website.
Henry said this year’s strain — influenza A, or H3N2 — has been tough on younger children, noting vaccination remains the best defense. Influenza vaccination is available to all children six months and older in BC
On Thursday (December 8), the provincial government announced the launch of a blitz of walk-in influenza vaccination clinics, including in Kamloops and the Thompson area. Details of these clinics can be found on this website.
“While children typically have the highest rates of infection with respiratory viruses, most children with influenza and other respiratory viruses typically recover safely at home without the need for medical intervention,” Henry said. “For children at high risk of serious complications, parents should consider talking to their caregiver about early access to an antiviral drug called oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which is most effective against influenza if it is given within 12 hours and ideally.” is started no later than 48 hours after the onset of the disease.”
Henry said parents of all children should seek treatment if their child is having trouble breathing or if their child’s fever goes away and comes back or lasts longer than five days, as it could indicate a possible bacterial infection.
“With multiple circulating respiratory illnesses and an early start to flu season, everyone needs to take preventive measures,” said Henry Husten, proper disposal of tissues and wearing a mask when necessary.”