Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says BC has not yet seen any cases of the acute hepatitis that is affecting children across the globe.
“We have not had any reports [of cases] here in British Columbia yet,” says Henry. “We’ve been in contact with BC Children’s Hospital and specialized physicians who deal with issues like this, so we are on alert and watching for it and we will continue to do so.”
Henry says the virus’s first cases were noted in October 2021. It has since spread to just under 200 children in 19 countries, and 10 per cent of those affected needed liver transplants. The illness has caused two deaths so far — as of 3 p.m. on Thursday — and only hit those under the age of 16 with 80 per cent of cases in those under six.
The World Health Organization says that adenovirus has been detected in at least 74 cases but it isn’t yet clear what the cause is.
“It is not yet clear if there has been an increase in hepatitis cases, or an increase in awareness of hepatitis cases that occur at the expected rate but go undetected,” says the WHO report released on Saturday. “While adenovirus is a possible hypothesis, investigations are ongoing for the causative agent.”
What is known is that the common viruses responsible for this type of reaction — namely hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E — have not been detected in any of these cases.
As for what the illness looks like, Henry says parents should be aware of the symptoms as the illness can develop quite rapidly.
“These children are getting very sick with gastrointestinal sickness,” says Henry. “So things like tummy pain, diarrhea, vomiting, fevers, and then they progress to develop jaundice — or yellowing of the skin and eyes — very quickly. This is a sign of the liver not functioning to take away the toxins.”
As for Canada, Henry says as far as she’s aware any investigations across the country are still only looking at single cases. She also says while BC has been untouched so far, it is possible that will change.
Henry says, ”There’s clearly a probability that we will identify some cases so we’ll be watching really carefully and we’ve been checking in daily with our colleagues at children’s hospital to see if there is anything going on, but so far nothing here.”