After instances of brain abscesses in children reportedly tripled final yr in southern Nevada, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating potential causes for the spike.
Dr. Taryn Bragg, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, reported the surprising variety of instances to the Southern Nevada Health District, which issued a public well being advisory in January 2023.
“We started noticing the infections in March 2022,” Dr. Bragg advised “Fox & Friends Weekend” on Sunday morning. “The vast majority of children presented with sinus infections that fairly rapidly progressed to abscesses forming in the brain.”
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A majority of the children additionally confirmed the presence of the micro organism Streptococcus intermedius, which is usually discovered within the oral and respiratory cavity, she stated.
“It often doesn’t result in infections, but it certainly can — and it’s the most common organism that will result in brain abscesses,” Dr. Bragg stated.
The physician hasn’t seen proof that the infections are attributable to environmental components in southern Nevada.
“We didn’t find anything local to our community that would help us mitigate and try to reduce infection rates,” she advised Fox News Digital in a telephone interview.
‘Very different from common cold’
As Dr. Bragg defined on “Fox & Friends Weekend,” the children who got here to the hospital with brain infections had been already “incredibly sick” after they arrived.
“It’s very different from your common cold,” she stated.
There have not been any fatalities from these pediatric brain abscesses in Nevada.
“Most of the children had significant fevers, severe headaches, lethargy, perhaps even neurologic deficits, like speech or language difficulties or weakness.”
There have not been any fatalities from these pediatric brain abscesses in southern Nevada, and the overwhelming majority of the children have “fully recovered without neurologic deficit,” Dr. Bragg stated.
Many of them have required long-term antibiotics and a number of surgical procedures, nonetheless.
Despite the spike, brain abscesses are rare total
Brain abscesses are rare amongst children, in accordance with the advisory.
Between 2015 and 2021, Clark County in southern Nevada solely noticed about 5 instances per yr amongst these age 18 and youthful, the Southern Nevada Health District acknowledged.
In 2022, there have been 17 instances, a rise of 240%.
The children who got here to the hospital with brain infections had been “incredibly sick” after they arrived.
The common age of the sufferers was 12 years previous — and 76% of them had been male.
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Dr. Jessica Penney, an epidemic intelligence officer with the CDC, introduced the rise of pediatric brain abscesses on the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Conference, held final week in Atlanta, Georgia, in accordance with this system’s agenda.
CDC is investigating
The CDC first mentioned the rise in pediatric brain abscesses in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in September 2022.
After three children in California had been hospitalized with the situation in May 2022, the company started investigating.
“Discussions with clinicians in multiple states raised concerns about a possible increase in pediatric intracranial infections, particularly those caused by Streptococcus intermedius, during the past year and the possible contributing role of SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the CDC acknowledged within the report.
What to find out about brain abscesses
A brain abscess, or cerebral abscess, happens when an an infection causes a pus-filled pocket to kind within the brain, in accordance with Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The most typical trigger is the presence of micro organism or fungi within the brain, which may enter from the ears, sinuses or bloodstream.
Those who expertise a head damage or have surgical procedure in that space might additionally develop an abscess.
The most typical trigger is the presence of micro organism or fungi within the brain.
Some individuals are at the next threat, such as those that have HIV/AIDS, a coronary heart defect, a historical past of intravenous drug use or a situation that weakens the immune system, Johns Hopkins states.
In the instances reported in southern Nevada, 64% of the children reported signs together with nasal congestion and runny nostril, in accordance with the general public well being advisory.
Another 50% experienced headache, headache with fever and head accidents with the danger of concussion.
Other widespread signs embody visible disturbances, weak spot, seizures, nausea, vomiting, confusion, adjustments in consciousness, neck or again stiffness, and problem speaking or shifting, per Johns Hopkins.
The situation may be recognized by MRI or CT scans, blood exams and/or samples from the abscess.
In the southern Nevada instances, 79% of the children’s dad and mom sought medical care that ultimately led to hospitalization, with 50% of them going straight to the emergency room.
“A brain abscess is a medical emergency.”
The infections are often handled with robust antibiotics, steroids, antifungal medicine and/or anti-seizure medicine, per Johns Hopkins.
In extreme instances, surgical procedure could also be required to empty or take away the abscess.
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“A brain abscess is a medical emergency,” Dr. MarkAlain Déry, an infectious illness doctor practising at Access Health Louisiana, stated in an interview with Fox News Digital.
“It needs to be drained immediately. The patient should be in the hospital, being watched by an infectious disease doctor.”
Some of the extra extreme dangers related to brain abscesses embody neurologic deficits and seizures, the physician added.
Possible hyperlink to pandemic
Brain abscesses in children decreased when the COVID-19 pandemic started, then rose in the summertime of 2021 — across the identical time that pandemic-related restrictions began to carry, the CDC acknowledged in its report.
Cases peaked in March 2022 earlier than declining to baseline ranges.
The timing has led some to counsel that the spike is attributable to “immunity debt,” during which pandemic restrictions such as masking and lockdowns might have led to weakened immune methods.
Dr. Déry stated he believes within the idea of immunity debt, however doubts that it’s an element within the brain infections spike.
“I think immunity debt applies more to the respiratory viruses, like RSV and influenza,” he advised Fox News Digital. “With a brain abscess, it’s caused by bacteria or parasites, often in cases where people have had dental work or an ENT (ear, nose and throat) procedure.”
He added, “You don’t just get a brain abscess out of nowhere.”
Other physicians are additionally unsure about whether or not there’s a hyperlink to the pandemic.
“We don’t know yet if this is just a cluster of cases or a national trend, so we can’t say whether a pause in the immune system response due to COVID lockdowns or closures is playing a role, where the response to basic bugs like strep, which our kids hadn’t seen in a while, is delayed,” Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of drugs at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, advised Fox News Digital.
The physician does imagine, nonetheless, that the surge in brain infections might stem from folks failing to acknowledge sinus and ear infections as a result of “hyperfocus” on COVID.
“You don’t just get a brain abscess out of nowhere.”
“We have seen a surge in sinus and ear infections recently — many undetected — which can spread to brain abscesses in a small number of cases,” he stated.
“It’s a numbers game — increased sinus and ear infections in healthy young teens lead to a corresponding increase in the number of abscesses.”
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About a 3rd of the children’s dad and mom stated that they had stopped masking previous to the onset of the an infection, Dr. Bragg advised Fox News Digital.
Until extra data is obtained from different states throughout the nation, Dr. Bragg stated will probably be troublesome to make any “definitive determination” as to what’s inflicting the infections.
“Despite the three- or fourfold increase in numbers, it’s still a relatively small sample size,” she famous.
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The physician expects to see extra proof that the infections are widespread. Already, she has heard about instances in Phoenix, Seattle, California, New York and Michigan.
“We might see more information coming out of other subspecialties, such as pediatric ENT and general surgery cases,” Dr. Bragg stated.