B.C. recorded five influenza-related deaths in children in November, a marked increase from previous years.
Data provided by the B.C. Coroners Service showed that between 2015 and 2019, B.C. recorded two to three influenza-related deaths in people aged 18 or younger. In 2020, the province recorded one death, while none were recorded in 2021.
The B.C. Coroners Service said the data reflects investigations where influenza was identified as “either the immediate, antecedent or underlying cause of death or as a significant condition.”
None of the deaths were recorded in infants younger than one.
Dr. Anna Wolak, a family physician in Vancouver, said doctors in the province are “hearing reports of children dying at a higher rate than what we are used to seeing in a typical flu season.”
“That is the hardest part of this at the moment. This is March 2020 for kids. We’re seeing hospitals under strain. We’re seeing cases rising,
“The influenza season started weeks earlier than it normally does and is rising at a significant rate — the curve is almost vertical.”
Estimates of the number of annual flu deaths in Canada vary depending on the severity of the flu season, but doctors, including Wolak, have warned this year appears to be particularly severe. Children, especially young children, are at a higher risk of severe outcomes.
‘Dramatic increase’ in influenza A
The warnings from doctors come as wait times at emergency rooms across the province have continued to climb. Over the weekend, the estimated wait time to see a doctor at B.C. Children’s Hospital was reported to be over 10 hours.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said visits to provincial emergency rooms had been averaging 6,700 per day, but that is now up to 6,900 patients daily, with extra pressure on B.C. Children’s and Fraser Health hospitals.
Dix said he couldn’t comment on the individual cases but said he believed at least two of the cases involved teenagers.
“This is absolutely devastating for everyone in the health-care system and obviously and most importantly for the families involved,” he said.
“It shows the significant dangers the flu can have for many children. It can be relatively mild [but] for some it can be fundamentally difficult, for those who are in critical care and those who pass away.”
On Monday, health officials in B.C. urged parents to have children vaccinated, citing a “dramatic increase” in cases of influenza A, a strain which can cause severe illness in children.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that as of Monday, rates of the common cold and RSV had levelled off compared to the steady rise of influenza.
Ontario recorded one child death from influenza in late November.
Paul Roumeliotis, a pediatrician and the medical officer of health for Ontario’s Eastern Health Unit, said Ontario is also experiencing an “unprecedented amount of children, particularly under 17 years of age, going into the emergency room and actually being admitted to hospital.”
www.cbc.ca 2022-12-07 21:10:57