OTTAWA — The number of people infected with the deadly virus that causes meningitis jumped to 15 across the country last week as the death toll from the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 and 2010 spread to two more victims.
In its weekly update, Ontario’s Centre for Disease Control reported Friday that the total number of confirmed cases of the infection, also known as acute flaccid myelitis, was up to 854. That included 16 new cases in Ontario — eight in Toronto, five in Peel Region, and one each in Durham Region, Waterloo Region, and Ottawa.
In Ottawa, the number of cases has jumped to eight over the past week — three boys and three girls.
Two more people have died in recent weeks after contracting the infection, the centre reported. Those two are both new cases.
The annual rate of infection is up nearly 65 per cent from last year, when there were 381 cases.
In Ottawa, at least two of the most recent cases likely are connected to a conference for Canadian doctors who were attending a meeting with colleagues from the U.S. Health Department in San Diego. The Canadian Medical Association Journal described the consequences of the international conference in a report published last month.
Speaking publicly about their case, three Ottawa children said they were touched by a Canadian doctor who is among those infected by meningitis, or Meningitis B, in San Diego. Their parents said the moment was the turning point in their saga.
Three families joined their children at a meeting organized by the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Then it got really, really serious, Michael Slobodchikoff, mother of two children, told the National Post on Thursday.
She said it was the doctors who helped her children make the switch. “You have to go to these places (for professional training),” she said. “That’s what they do, they attend conferences. The day before they said: ‘We have four kids here that may have a disease. Please consider making a change.’”
The three Ottawa families took that advice and changed their trip. The family moved away from the San Diego area, onto Kettleman Lake in the Okanagan region, in B.C.
“A switch was made, a decision was made,” Susan Slobodchikoff, one of the parents, told the Post. “Something happened, and it was the intervention of the physicians that took us all in a new direction.”
She said this was an indication of how she thought best of her family’s case. “I knew if a decision was made by professionals, it must be a good one. We don’t always choose things that are logical.”
The family said it had changed its doctor’s prescribing pattern, changed its home and looked into exercise, to increase fluid.
Slobodchikoff said there was so much “unnecessary noise” around the issue that it took the family some time to come to grips with how their children ended up in bed with meningitis-like symptoms.
In Ottawa, the case is drawing national attention. Last month, Dominic Solonteau told the Post that his son Charlie, now nine, spent more than two weeks in hospital after he contracted the infection.
“I think the vaccine, ultimately, failed my son, and in hindsight, I really want to blame (the doctors),” Solonteau said.
Solonteau said his son could not walk and needed physical therapy after coming out of a medically induced coma.
Quebec recorded 51 meningitis-like infections, two more than last week. About 45 people in the province were infected last year. The infection is mostly found in people who are too young to have had the shot.
Ontario health authorities reported six new cases in their weekly update on Friday.
There is a national advisory for doctors and health-care workers to be aware of the symptoms of the infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that people go to the emergency room right away if they experience swelling on the neck, losing muscle strength, or ringing in the ears.
The most common risk factors include lack of arm movement, ear problems, or just sleeping with an infant.
Up to one in 10 cases are caused by a particular type of bacteria, a strain called meningococcal meningitis.
The onus is on people to keep contacts of an infected person in close touch, particularly with pregnant women, to help speed the diagnosis of the infection.
The Canadian Press