Doctors warn about mysterious brain infection among children in Nevada

Doctors warn about mysterious brain infection among children in Nevada
(Representational photo, Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA: Health authorities are raising concerns about a sudden surge in uncommon and severe brain abscesses among children in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specialists are scrutinizing the cluster of cases, and medical professionals nationwide report observing a similar increase.

The incidence of brain abscesses in minors surged in Nevada in the previous year, soaring from an average of four or five annually to 18, tripling the number. Dr Taryn Bragg, an associate professor at the University of Utah and a pediatric neurosurgeon who handles these cases, informed CNN, "In my 20 years’ experience, I’ve never seen anything like it." Although medical professionals are unsure what is causing the increase in cases, they speculate that it may be linked to weakened immunity to infections as a result of Covid measures like lockdowns.


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What are the symptoms and warning signs?

Brain abscesses are typically caused by bacteria or fungi entering brain tissue after an infection or severe head injury, resulting in pus-filled growths in the brain. Most cases involve the child initially displaying common childhood symptoms such as an earache or sinus infection accompanied by a headache and fever. However, within days, the symptoms can worsen, resulting in seizures, changes in vision, vomiting, loss of muscle function on one side of the body, language difficulties, and alterations in mental status.


According to Dr Bragg, this pattern is consistent across most cases. Dr Bragg, being the only pediatric neurosurgeon in Nevada, was able to detect the trend and alert the local public health officials. She observed a significant surge in brain abscesses after March 2022, which is unusual, especially because the presentation of the cases showed striking similarities.

Physicians throughout the United States are observing an increase in the incidence of brain abscesses in younger populations. Dr Sunil Sood, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Northwell Health, a New York-based healthcare system, estimated that his facility was witnessing at least twice the usual number of brain abscesses. Brain abscesses are not classified as reportable on their own, meaning that physicians are not required to inform public health officials when they occur.


75% cases were observed in children around age 12

Approximately 75% of the brain abscess cases in the Clark County surge were observed in boys around the age of 12, reported Daily Mail. According to Dr Jessica Penney, an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer for the Southern Nevada Health District at the CDC, the number of pediatric brain abscess cases remained constant at around four per year from 2015 to 2020. The number decreased in 2020, which is likely attributable to Covid measures like school closures, masking, social distancing, and lockdowns. However, the numbers returned to normal the following year and then significantly increased in 2022.

Doctors believe the infection could be due to lockdowns

Dr Penney suggested that the spike in brain abscesses could be due to immunity debt resulting from the pandemic. She explained that children were not exposed to respiratory illnesses during the pandemic and were, therefore, unable to build up natural immunity. However, Dr Sood disagrees with this theory. He believes that Covid temporarily displaced other infections, pushing them out. As Covid cases have decreased, childhood infections have resurged, such as the outbreak of RSV during the fall and winter of 2022.

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 Doctors warn about mysterious brain infection among children in Nevada