WATCH ABOVE: Su-Ling Goh has more on Enterovirus D68 in the province, and what Alberta Health Services wants parents to know.
EDMONTON – A respiratory virus that’s affected hundreds of children across the U.S. may have arrived in Alberta. It’s called Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).
Alberta Health Services has confirmed 18 cases of the virus in our province since August, all in hospitalized patients under the age of 18. Five of those cases were in Edmonton, 10 were in Calgary.
The provincial lab is now testing to see if it’s the same strain of EV-D68 as the one causing problems in the U.S.
Even though hospitals across the provinces are seeing more children with respiratory viruses lately, Dr. James Talbot — Alberta Health’s chief medical officer of health — says that happens every fall as kids go back to school.
“Every fall at this time, you’ll have people going, ‘oh my kids came home with something, or there’s something circulating in the office.’ And it’s often enterovirus and this time we know it’s D68.
“But we haven’t had any deaths and we’re seeing activity that’s increased as it normally is this time of year.”
WATCH: A serious respiratory illness that’s been spreading through parts of the United States has now crossed the border into Canada. There’s always a spike in viruses when kids return to school, but the severity of this strain of Enterovirus is raising concern. Shirlee Engel explains.
What are enteroviruses?
Enteroviruses are a group of viruses comprised of more than 100 different types of strains, according to Canadian microbiologist and author Jason Tetro.
Only a handful affect humans. EV-D68 happens to be one of them.
Other enteroviruses that are frequently seen in Canada include Coxsackie A19 and EV-71, which has caused outbreaks of hand-foot-and-mouth disease in kids.
In healthy adults, enterovirus wouldn’t lead to any serious concerns, but it’s young kids who are most vulnerable – especially if they have additional respiratory issues.
Enterovirus symptoms are similar to the common cold, however, the strain in the U.S. has caused wheezing, and trouble breathing.
“In some cases it can deepen into a pneumonia and there’s even a possibility of the virus going into the blood,” Tetro added.
It spreads just like the flu – through coughing, sneezing or close contact with infected patients.
Parents are advised to keep sick children home from school as well as remind their kids to wash their hands and cough into their sleeve. Those tips are especially important to protect children with asthma.
There is no vaccine for the virus.
With files from Carmen Chai and Su-Ling Goh, Global News
© Shaw Media, 2014