QUEBEC – Quebec’s public health network is now reporting nearly 1,100 cases of a new strain of the enterovirus that has been linked to deadly brain swelling cases in the U.S.
The Enterovirus 67 strain had already infected 16 people in Canada and Quebec had seven cases for the first time on Monday.
Quebec had to send some 1,000 families out of public daycare centers temporarily and is working to vaccinate at least the current school-age children by week’s end.
Parents are also being told to keep children at home if they are sick.
“Our goal is to raise awareness as soon as possible because there are lessons to be learned,” Health Minister Agnes Maltais said Wednesday, as new cases of the virus are reported.
At least 165 other people were reported in other parts of Canada from Hamilton to Alberta and a total of 1,241 people have contracted the virus.
“It’s not the same strain as a year ago, and, of course, if you go back and look at when the main U.S. cases came from, the contagion, we’ve even seen some improvement in the strain,” Maltais said.
The new clusters of cases are creating “a lot of fears” among parents, Maltais said.
Quebec has some 2,800 public daycare centers, an average of more than 300 for each area of the province. The number of cases being reported was confirmed on Wednesday.
Although it’s not clear how the virus is spreading, Maltais said there is “no reason at all to believe it’s linked to vaccination.”
Quebec’s provincial agency for vaccines said on Tuesday that 11 of the public daycare centres were closed and had been advised to put up signs alerting parents.
After consultations with a health risk advisory committee, the Health Department created a new warning statement to reach parents after confirming cases in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Gatineau-West across Quebec.
Parents were urged to call their child’s daycare centers, not to visit daycare centres during the period of the campaign, and they were advised not to take their child to daycare during the first week of May.
The new generation of enterovirus requires seven doses of the vaccine for protection.