Doctors are raising the alarm over soaring cases of a “mysterious brain infection” in children, which health officials claim is spreading because of “lockdowns.”
The spike in rare and serious brain abscesses in children is being reported in and around Las Vegas, Nevada.
Experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating the spate of cases.
Meanwhile, doctors across America say they are also seeing a sharp rise in cases.
The number of brain abscesses in minors tripled in Nevada last year, shooting up from an average of four or five a year to 18.
Dr. Taryn Bragg, a pediatric neurosurgeon and associate professor at the University of Utah who treats the cases, told CNN she had “never seen anything like it” in her 20 years of experience.
Physicians say they are baffled about what has caused the rise over the past two years.
However, health officials claim that it could be caused by weakened immunity to infections due to Covid measures such as lockdowns.
Dr. Bragg was the first to identify the pattern and notify local public health officials because she is the only pediatric neurosurgeon in Nevada.
After March 2022, she said there was a “huge increase” in brain abscesses.
Bragg describes the spike as “unusual,” particularly as “the similarities in terms of the presentation of cases was striking.”
In nearly every case, the child would develop a typical childhood ailment like an earache or sinus infection, with a headache and fever.
Dr. Bragg said that within days, it would become obvious something more severe was at play.
It arose that physicians across the US are observing more and more brain abscesses in younger populations.
Dr. Sunil Sood, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Northwell Health, a health system in New York, guessed his facility was seeing at least double the usual amount of brain abscesses.
On their own, brain abscesses are not reportable, which means physicians do not have to tell public health officials when they occur.
Brain abscesses are pus-filled swellings in the brain.
They normally happen when bacteria or fungi get into brain tissue after an infection or serious head injury.
Initial symptoms are headaches and intermittent fever.
It can lead to seizures, changes to vision, vomiting, loss of muscle function on one side of the body, language problems, and changes in mental status.
In the Clark County spike, around three-quarters of the cases happened in boys around age 12, according to The Daily Mail.
Dr. Jessica Penney, the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service officer for Southern Nevada Health District, said that between 2015 and 2020, pediatric brain abscess cases remained at a consistent four per year.
In 2020 the number dropped, likely due to Covid measures such as lockdowns, school closures, masking, and social distancing.
The following year, the number of brain abscesses went back to normal and then shot up in 2022.
Dr. Penney said the spike could be due to immunity debt from the pandemic when children were not exposed to respiratory illnesses and couldn’t build up natural protection.
The CDC official insists that “lockdowns” could be the only explanation for the spike.
However, Dr. Sood disagrees with Penney’s claims.
Sood believes Covid displaced infections temporarily, pushing others out, meaning the lifting of lockdowns wouldn’t cause other infections to soar.