Unusually deadly strain of hepatitis A confirmed in Canada

Written by CNN Staff

The deadliest form of water-borne disease has been confirmed in Ontario in Canada’s one year long hepatitis A outbreak.

Three confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of the virus were identified in the Halton and Durham regions. One of the cases was in Halton County, in the east of the province, and the others were in Durham, in the far east. This confirmation comes after a 26-year-old Vancouver woman was confirmed as the state’s first case of the Omicron variant.

“The Omicron variant is caused by Salmonella Omicron (PSO) and is associated with a number of strains of this virus,” Halton Health said in a statement.

The health authority said the first confirmed cases of the variant were identified in June 2018 and that the health alert was issued early in August.

They also confirmed that the five people have been treated for the disease. Three have recovered, while two are still recovering.

Helpful tips in advance

Dr. Claudia Lasall de la Pena, Public Health Ontario’s chief of Communicable Disease Control, said in a news release that steps can be taken to prevent further cases.

“These precautions include washing hands after handling animals, cutting, cooking or preparing raw meat; washing hands after visiting food services or after having contact with animals; and minimizing contact with pools, water fountains and other sources of water during swimming or bathing,” she said.

#RecessionEarly2018: Case of Hepatitis A confirmed in a Western Ontario women this morning. Photo: Don Butler, BC Ministry of Health and Population Services https://t.co/e2lE8YjUE1 pic.twitter.com/5g1FwqdkfY — eHealth Ontario (@HealthOntario) September 21, 2018

Why this strain is so deadly

Dr. Pamela Coey, chair of the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Emergency Medicine and an expert in acute care and critical care medicine, told CNN that the rarity of this strain is helping scientists understand how it spreads.

“Hepatitis A causes serious acute illness and usually the life expectancy is about three weeks. The genetic make-up of this strain is different so it is harder to diagnosis but in this case the region where the patient was known to have become infected is highly concentrated in areas of Toronto,” she said.

This is the first time the virus has been confirmed in Canada as the strain is not common in North America. There is no vaccine or cure.

Coey said that one of the greatest challenges is that many of the symptoms are similar to other diseases, which means that people who have the infection have to treat symptoms with multiple medications that are all “factored in to perform well with routine health care.”

The most common symptoms are fever, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, dark urine, yellowing of the skin and eyes and jaundice.

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