6 children in B.C. have died of a flu-related illness this season: BC CDC

Click to play video: 'Deaths of six B.C. children associated with flu'
Deaths of six B.C. children associated with flu
WATCH: The flu season is barely underway in B.C. and already the deaths of six children are reported to be connected to the virus. Christa Dao reports – Dec 7, 2022

B.C. health officials confirm six children have died from a flu-related illness this season.

The BC Centre for Disease Control said it is aware of six reports of influenza-associated deaths among children and youth (under the age of 19) in the province.

In a statement to Global News, the organization said “early findings indicate some of the children experienced secondary bacterial infections contributing to severe illness which can be a complication of influenza.

“It is important to know that death associated with influenza in previously healthy children continues to be rare. Public health is monitoring the situation closely, and are reminding people of the steps they can take to prevent themselves, their children and their loved ones against the flu.”

On Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said it’s a tragedy.

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“It’s heartbreaking for families, and it’s heartbreaking for anybody who works in health care, and it’s heartbreaking for me too,” Dix said.

Dix said the province has been preparing for a bad flu season but that doesn’t make these tragic circumstances any easier.

“So what we have this year is a lot of flu,” he said. “We saw that in Australia and New Zealand. We’ve been preparing for it, we have the largest immunization program in the province’s history.”

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Dr. Anna Wolak, a family physician in Vancouver and a clinical assistant professor at UBC, told Global News said doctors are seeing an earlier flu season this year.

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“Cases are rising and they’re rising significantly to the point that the curve is practically vertical,” she said.

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Wolak said they have heard of multiple deaths in children from the flu or complications following the flu.

“We do know that flu kills,” she said. “We do know that influenza can kill the youngest and the oldest but the rate that what’s being reported at the moment is higher than what we normally see in a season.

“So the worrying thing is that not only are there more cases but we’re hearing that a number of the cases are actually sicker than what we’re used to seeing.”

Wolak said in the past B.C. has recorded one or two deaths in young children during the flu season. But this season is only just underway.

Wolak said the concern is when children are having problems breathing or when their lips are turning blue or when they are not eating or drinking and they haven’t urinated for 12 hours.

“A lot of parents do feel when something is wrong with their child and that’s another thing that parents need to look out for,” she added.

Wolak advises getting children vaccinated against the flu as they know this year’s vaccine is a “really good match” to the virus that is circulating.

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“H3N2 is the strain that is circulating, it’s the strain that’s affecting a lot of kids and that is what is in our flu shot,” she said. “That’s one of the strains that is in our flu shot so we know it’s well-matched.”

People can still get the flu but with the vaccination, it is much more likely to be a milder case, Wolak added.

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The BC CDC said vaccination against influenza is particularly important for children at the highest individual risk of severe outcomes, including:

  • Children with chronic medical conditions, including heart or lung disorders that require regular medical care, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cystic fibrosis.
  • Children with kidney disease, chronic liver disease such as hepatitis, diabetes, cancer, anemia or weakened immune system.
  • Children with health conditions causing difficulty breathing, swallowing or a risk of choking on food or fluids, such as people with severe brain damage, spinal cord injury, seizures or neuromuscular disorders
  • Children and teenagers required to take Aspirin® or ASA for long periods of time due to a medical condition
  • Children who are very obese
  • Infants and toddlers

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