US CDC probing mysterious cluster of brain infections in kids

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New York– The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is probing an increasing case of mysterious and life threatening cluster of brain infections among children as young as 12 years old.

Intracranial abscesses among paediatric patients are rare disease events, with an estimated incidence of 0.5 cases per 100,000 population.

But, the number of rare brain infections called brain abscesses — pus-filled pockets in the brain — tripled for kids in Nevada last year, according to a statement by the Southern Nevada Health District, a division of CDC.

In 2022, 17 cases of brain abscesses among patients below 18 years have been identified. Between 2015-2021, there were on average approximately 5 cases per year, it added.

The children were on average 12 years, and the majority (76 per cent) were males.

“In my 20 years’ experience, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Dr. Taryn Bragg, Associate Professor at the University of Utah who treated the cases, was quoted as saying to CNN.

“After March of 2022, there was just a huge increase,” in brain abscesses, Bragg said. “I was seeing large numbers of cases and that’s unusual.”

“And the similarities in terms of the presentation of cases was striking,” she said.

In almost every case, children would get a common childhood complaint, such as an earache or a sinus infection, with a headache and fever, but within about a week, Bragg said, it would become clear that something more serious was going on.

According to the Nevada health authorities, most patients (76 per cent) were diagnosed with sinusitis and 26 per cent were diagnosed with mastoiditis during their hospitalisation. Mastoiditis is an infection that affects the mastoid bone, located behind the ear, and is most often caused by a middle ear infection.

Fever was also present in approximately 50 per cent of patients with a brain abscess, and a history of headaches showed to be a more common symptom (60-70 per cent).

A majority of the children (82 per cent) required hospitalisation and neurosurgical intervention.

About half of children showed a problem with nerve, spinal cord, or brain function, and approximately 25 per cent had seizures.

The findings were also released at the recently held CDC’s annual Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference.

After the presentation, doctors from other parts of the country said they are seeing similar increases in brain abscesses in kids.

“We’re just impressed by the number of these that we’re seeing right now,” Dr Sunil Sood, a paediatric infectious disease specialist at Northwell Health, a health system in New York, was quoted as saying.

He estimates they are seeing at least twice as many as usual, though they haven’t done a formal count. He urged the CDC to continue investigating and work to get the word out. (IANS)


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