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British Columbia Child’s death becomes third in B.C. linked to enterovirus D68

A doctor works in the vaccine research lab at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver in 2009.

Andy Clark/Reuters

The death of a B.C. child has become the third fatality in the province linked to the enterovirus D68 infection.

Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an infectious disease specialist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said Saturday the child was under the age of five when it died in November and the agency was notified last week.

The deaths of an elderly person and young adult have also been associated with the respiratory virus, and Skowronski said the patients had multiple underlying medical conditions or asthma.

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Because of privacy issues, Skowronski said she couldn't reveal the child's gender or age.

"Like the other two, we can't say with certainty whether that infection was causally related with the death or in what way in may have contributed, so right now we're describing it as a death in association with enterovirus D68 confirmation," she said.

Most of those infected with enterovirus D68 have what appear to be symptoms of a common cold: sneezing, runny nose, a cough, and some have no symptoms at all, she said.

The risk to the general population is low, she added, noting that only a small proportion of people who suffer from underlying medical conditions experience more severe problems.

The B.C. agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada began collaborating on a virus-surveillance program in September.

In a report published online Friday, the B.C. agency noted it had detected 220 cases of the virus in the province since mid-August, and of those 140 required hospitalization. It also reported five cases of neurological illness associated with the virus.

Skowronski said about 70 per cent of those hospitalized were children under the age of 15, and upper body muscle weakness was reported in the five neurological cases.

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The virus' peak period of circulation is the fall, so Skowronski said the risk has diminished substantially, but influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus are replacing enterovirus as a greater threat to the community.

The provincial government's HealthLinkBC website describes respiratory syncytial virus as a bad cold that can lead to pneumonia or other problems, especially in babies.

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