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COVID, flu, RSV still hitting B.C. children hard

Since the pandemic began, an average of one child a day has been hospitalized with COVID, and one a week admitted to critical care.
COVID-19 continues to send B.C. children and youth to hospital and critical care as the "tripledemic" of COVID, RSV and influenza surges into 2023.

B.C.’s respiratory “tripledemic” continues to take its toll on children and teens.

The latest data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control shows a steady rate of COVID-related hospitalizations among young people in the final two months of 2022 — one in six of which ended up in critical care.

The data, published Jan. 5, accounts for the period up to the week of Dec. 18 to 24.

It shows a total of 54 new hospitalizations among zero-to-19-year-olds in the eight weeks leading up to Christmas, and a total of nine new critical care admissions.

New COVID-related hospitalizations in this respiratory illness season peaked in late November — with 10 young people hospitalized in the week of Nov. 20, and 12 in the week of Nov. 27. Those two weeks saw four new critical care admissions: one in the first week and three in the second.

In the final week leading up to Christmas, seven children and youth were hospitalized, with three new critical care admissions.

The numbers are well below the pandemic peak reported in late January 2022 amidst the beginning of the Omicron wave, when B.C. hit a high of 50 new hospitalizations and six new critical care admissions among young people in one week.

But the numbers add to a steadily growing total of children and teens who’ve been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

In total, 1,074 children and teens have been hospitalized with COVID-19: 675 in the under-10 age group, and 399 in the 10-to-19 group.

There have also been 146 critical care admissions: 86 among under-10s, and 60 among older children and teens.

What does that really mean, in the larger scheme of things? Using the "epi-week" start date of March 1, 2020, the pandemic had lasted 1,035 days, or 147 weeks, as of Dec. 31. Which means B.C. has seen an average of one child hospitalized with COVID-19 each day since the pandemic began, and one each week sent to critical care.

What effect the newly arrived “Kraken” subvariant — the XBB.1.5 strain of Omicron — will have on those numbers is not yet known.

Influenza down among B.C. children, but RSV up: BCCDC report

Meanwhile, both influenza and RSV continue to hit the youngest British Columbians.

As has been previously reported, the BCCDC’s latest respiratory epidemiology summary notes six influenza-associated deaths among children and youth in B.C.: one younger than five, three aged five to nine, and two aged 15 to 18 — all of which happened in November and December.

“Several experienced secondary bacterial infections, which can be a complication of influenza contributing to more severe illness,” the report notes.

The report says influenza among children and youth in the Vancouver area has followed a similar pattern to the province as a whole: it peaked earlier than usual, in November, and has since been decreasing.

Influenza hit a high with a test positivity rate of 41 per cent in the week starting Nov. 20, compared to seven per cent in the final week of the year.

The new dominant virus? RSV.

“RSV has replaced influenza as the most commonly detected virus,” the report notes.

B.C. saw test positivity of 42 per cent for RSV in the final week of 2022, exceeding the pre-pandemic average of about 35 per cent.

COVID-19 test positivity rates among children also rose in the final three weeks of the year, from four per cent in the week of Dec. 11 to six per cent in the final week of the year.

The data counts children and youth aged 18 and younger who were tested in laboratories in Vancouver (including B.C. Children’s Hospital), Richmond and the North Shore.

Respiratory infections at 'stable elevated levels' in B.C.'s youngest kids

As has been the case throughout the respiratory illness season, the youngest children remain the most affected. The BCCDC report says community visits (to family physicians and clinics) for acute respiratory infections have declined among most pediatric age groups but remain at “stable elevated levels” in children under five years old.

In the face of the ongoing respiratory illness surge, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix warns the province’s health-care system is still facing some “very challenging weeks” from the combination of respiratory viruses in circulation.

At a news conference Thursday, Dix encouraged those who haven't received their booster doses of COVID-19 to get their shots and reminded people to stay home when they’re sick.

He also told reporters that he wears a face covering in indoor public places, such as the grocery store, and he suggested everyone consider doing the same.

— with files from Canadian Press