A vicious respiratory virus suspected in the hospitalization of hundreds of children across North America has now reached Ontario.
The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) confirmed Wednesday that four children have been infected with the Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).
All four patients have “completely recovered and gone home,” CHEO’s communications manager Eva Schacherl said.
The children did not require treatment in the intensive care unit, she said.
However, at least one other child in Ontario has been admitted to ICU with suspected EV-D68 and the number of children landing in hospital with respiratory problems across the country continues to grow.
CHEO said it was expecting to see more children with the virus admitted over the coming weeks.
The latest outbreak of EV-D68 is suspected of hospitalizing hundreds of children across the United States. The virus has symptoms similar to the common cold, including fever, runny nose, sneezing and coughing as well as body and muscle aches. In severe cases, children can end up on respirators in hospital.
The virus only recently crossed the border, with confirmed cases in Alberta, British Columbia and now Ontario.
Health Canada is aware of many clusters of children with severe respiratory illnesses in other provinces.
In response to the outbreak, it issued a public health alert warning 4,000 health professionals across the country to be vigilant against the virus.
In the past week, Windsor Regional Hospital has seen an “unusual” spike in children admitted with respiratory problems classed as high to severe.
Out of the 20 children admitted so far, 17 children are still in hospital, with one in ICU, hospital spokesman Ron Foster said. The other three have been discharged.
All cases are being treated as suspected EV-D68 cases, but test results were not expected for at least a week, he said.
Most of the children were under the age of five, but a few teenagers were admitted yesterday.
Hospitals typically see an increase in children with respiratory illness at the start of the school year, however, this spike was significantly larger than usual, Foster said.
“The virus is treatable. We just have to watch whether the volume grows,” Foster said.
A Halton Region childcare centre on Tuesday sent out an incorrect report to parents that one of its children had been infected with the virus.
The Monkey See Monkey Do Childcare and Development Centre, which runs centres in Oakville and Burlington, sent an email to parents that said: “Please be advised that our centre has 1 confirmed case of Enterovirus D68.”
Aldo Collarile, owner of the childcare centre, said staff were given “incorrect information” by a parent about their sick child.
The child was taken to hospital, but laboratory test results have not confirmed the infection.
“When given the correct information we dealt with it internally,” Collarile said.
The EV-D68 virus was first detected in California in 1962, Public Health Ontario medical microbiologist Dr. Jonathan Gubbay said.
Before the latest upsurge in cases, the virus has mostly circulated at low levels, with just over 80 confirmed reports in Canada since 1999, Gubbay said.
This outbreak may have hit harder because the rarity of the strain means young children would not have had the chance to develop immunity to it.
So far the infection has not been fatal, but it has landed children in ICU “so that’s quite severe,” he said.
Children under the age of five with a history of asthma should be watched carefully for worsening symptoms, especially breathing difficulties.