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Bacteria that killed Vancouver Island teen is rare: BC's top doc

(Courtesy: GoFundMe)

BC's top doctor says the bacteria that killed a Vancouver Island teen is rarely deadly

Bacteria that killed young BC teen is rare, says the province's lead physician

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The death of a 13-year-old girl from Esquimalt has the province’s lead physician offering assurances it’s extremely rare for someone so young to die from strep throat.

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the invasive form of bacteria that killed Robin Carey usually strikes people older than 40.

“To have something like this in a young person is very sad. Of the 16 deaths last year, there were none in that age group. In the 10 years prior to that, we’ve had a couple of young people who’ve died from this disease, so it’s hard to tell who’s going to be affected by it, but thankfully, it is rare.”

She adds people with compromised immune systems are especially at risk. “People with other chronic, underlying conditions, diabetes, people who are homeless or under-housed or have challenges in maintaining cleanliness if they have cuts and scrapes.”

While the province usually records fewer than 175 per year, Henry says 400 cases were recorded in 2017.

“In 2016, we had about 300 cases… we’ve looked into it. Was there certain people? A certain age group that were infected? What were the causes of this increase and there’s nothing that really shows up. We can see more when we have a bad influenza season. People’s immune system has been worn down by influenza and you get inflammation in the lungs, you can get more likely to have bad pneumonia with a bacteria like Strep which we carry around with us all the time.”

Henry adds that’s why people who’ve had a flu shot are less likely to get sick.

Island Health issued a warning after Carey died last Friday.

The popular softball player got sick after attending a recent camp in Parksville as part of the Victoria Devils Fastball Club. According to a statement by the club, Carey passed away suddenly. The page describes her as a great person and teammate, who “had a tremendous passion for the game of softball.”

A memorial service is planned for April 5th in Saanich from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Les Passmore Centre at 286 Hampton Road.

A GoFundMe page set up in Robin’s honour has already raised more than $15,000.