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B.C. Minister of Health Terry Lake.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

An uncommon respiratory virus that is sweeping across parts of the United States has been confirmed in three people in British Columbia, but the province's health minister says there's no reason to panic.

Terry Lake said two of the cases of enterovirus D68 are in the Fraser Health region and a third has surfaced in the Interior.

"[They're] certainly much lower numbers than they're seeing in Alberta or that they have seen in the United States," Lake said Wednesday, adding patients who end up in hospital are isolated.

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"It's handled much the same way other infectious respiratory diseases are and there are protocols in place."

The three-week provincewide school strike has likely prevented the virus from spreading, Lake said.

Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Sue Pollack said a young adult male tested positive for the virus in the Thompson-Cariboo region.

She said people who are otherwise healthy should be able to fight it off, but it's more serious for young children with existing respiratory conditions.

"In children, parents may notice difficulty breathing, wheezing, shallow breathing, maybe the children are dehydrated, not as alert as usual. In those instances it's very important that parents seek medical care," she said.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said the three people infected with the virus are being treated in the Vancouver area.

The virus, also called EV-D68, has been confirmed in 130 children in 12 American states since mid-August, causing severe respiratory illnesses.

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Alberta health officials say 18 children in the province are sick with the virus, although chief medical health officer Dr. James Talbot said more tests need to be done to determine if it's the same strain that is causing the outbreak in the U.S.

The D68 strain causes symptoms similar to the common cold, but children with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma may suffer more serious symptoms if infected.

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