In a sign of the long-term nature of the problem, more than 3,000 cases have been recorded since 2017
A series of positive results from the COVID-19 drug test of students of a Quebec high school has prompted the Quebec health authority to issue a daily update on the highly infectious illness.
According to figures released by Health and Social Services Canada in July, 13 suspected cases of the infection were reported that month in Quebec, affecting 59 students. The highest number of cases at that time were found in the Montreal region, with 52 cases and 28 students.
It was not until the beginning of October, however, that the disease became known beyond the province. According to the news website Doctorsgnalet.ca, at least 300 children in Quebec have received the test, with 364 additional reported cases confirmed.
“At this stage, there is no need to panic,” health authority chairperson Robert Couture said on Monday. “We have been monitoring the situation since April, with timely and non-routine measures and well-planned responses. Our vigilance level remains high, with a revised plan that will be adopted soon to ensure that we fully carry out the necessary precautions to eliminate the risk of spread.”
As of Sunday, the reported cases of the contagious and disease-causing bacteria responsible for COVID have risen above 700, making the illness the second most commonly reported in Quebec this year.
According to doctors, the onset of the infection can vary. Symptoms may appear as early as one week or as late as 10 days after exposure, but include fever, chills, severe headaches, neck pain, fever of more than 38C (100F), swollen lymph nodes, abdominal pains, stiff muscles, headaches, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. More severe symptoms of the virus include chills and flu-like symptoms.
The Quebec health authority said a severe outbreak of the infection can occur after individuals have contact with animals through their inedible fur or hides. It said dogs were responsible for more than half of the illnesses in 2017, with cattle, horses and pigs responsible for about another third of cases.
In an interview with Le Journal de Montréal on Sunday, Hélène Volin, an epidemiologist at the municipal health authority, said that in addition to the leading causes of infection, “like ticks, we are also seeing an increase in the population of those who have had previous contact with such mammals”.
There has been an increase in the number of students receiving the test, which is voluntary and means students are more likely to give their consent. The number of confirmed cases in Quebec has increased almost 500% in the last 12 months.
Public Health Montreal said it will also assess the vaccination rate among schoolchildren in the school system, which is currently at less than 4%.
More children are also being vaccinated, but so far it is still far below the national average. Statistics Canada reported that in 2014, 15.6% of the Quebec population was vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.