April 29, 2023 | 2:27 p.m
A mysterious increase in potentially fatal brain infections in children has doctors in southern Nevada on high alert.
Researchers at the Southern Nevada Health District said there were 18 cases last year of pediatric brain abscesses — pockets in the brain filled with pus that can be fatal if left untreated — compared to an average of five cases per year reported between 2015 and and 2021.
Abscesses are rare and usually form to prevent the spread of a bacterial or fungal infection.
The data was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference.
The CDC reports Cases began to rise nationwide in the summer of 2021 and peaked in March 2022.
However, the CDC said the rate of infections returned to baseline levels following March to May 2022 and that the increase noted was “consistent with historical seasonal changes observed since 2016.”
Dr. Taryn Bragg, an associate professor at the University of Utah who treats pediatric brain abscess cases in Nevada cases, told NBC that he was inundated with calls to treat the infection last spring.
“Every single call I get from the ER is a kid coming in with a brain abscess,” Bragg said.
Bragg added that cases have fallen in recent months after he treated two patients for brain infections at the beginning of the year.
Cases are not only occurring at higher rates in Nevada, New York is also reportedly seeing more children with brain abscesses.
said Dr. Shaun Rodgers, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens, whose hospital has also seen an increase in cases since the end of 2022.
“Not only us. It’s hospitals all over the country,” Rodgers said. “When we talk to colleagues, everyone seems to feel that we’ve really had an increase in these types of infections.”
The most common cause behind infections is bacteria, although fungi and viruses can also cause abscess-forming infections, which spread from other parts of the body, including the eyes, ears, or teeth, according to at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Those with congenital heart disease, head injuries, dental infections, or chronic sinus infections are particularly at risk and symptoms may include behavioral changes, severe headaches, and fever.
Meanwhile, some reports link the increase in Covid-19 infections, including another CDC study which identified an approximately 100% increase in the first two years of the pandemic.
One hospital, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, even saw a 236% increase in bacterial brain infections during that time.
“We wonder if the virus itself causes some kind of inflammatory process that allows these bacteria to invade,” said Dr. Rosemary Olivero, the head of the hospital’s division of medical subspecialties, told NBC “That’s not a question we’ve realized. answered yet.”
Olivero said cases have returned to normal levels.