Australia. Worrying increase in admissions of unimmunized young children to intensive care for respiratory diseases

In Australia, hospitals are seeing more and more cases of very young patients being admitted to wards where the unimmunized toddlers end up in the intensive care unit with respiratory diseases, including respiratory syncytial virus and influenza. As they had been less exposed to in the last two years.

Australia: children not immune to respiratory viruses

A strange phenomenon observed in Australia has been reported for a few days, especially in the British press. It turns out that a worrying number of infants and toddlers born since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic who are not immune to the respiratory virus have been seriously ill and have found themselves placed in care.

According to some Australian doctors, these children were born during the health crisis with serious forms “because they were confronted with viruses they had never encountered before”, such as influenza, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and, to a lesser extent, Covid19. In fact, these children were born and raised as virtually no other viruses were circulating in Australia other than SARS-CoV-2.

Quoted by Daily Telegraph, Dr. Philip Britton, a pediatrician for infectious diseases at Westmead Children’s Hospital on the outskirts of Sydney, said an analysis of admissions to intensive care units shows that babies are being tested for flu and Covid-19 at the same time.

The hospital in question has thus registered four times more admissions for influenza in children than for Covid-19 during the last month.

A situation considered “very worrying”

However, with about 5% of children with concomitant infections admitted to intensive care, the situation was considered “very worrying” by Dr. Philip Britton and his colleagues.

In addition, it should be noted that almost half of the children had no pre-existing health problems and the high number of admissions is putting pressure on the Australian hospital system. Some of the “pandemic babies” have inflammation in the breast but also in the brain and heart caused by influenza, Covid-19 and RSV.

The latter is a major cause of pneumonia in children and can lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis, which is especially dangerous in infants. Severe cases can kill babies and toddlers whose small airways are not yet fully formed and are struggling to cope with the infection.


An explosion of RSV cases in New South Wales

Three weeks ago, an RSV alert was issued as there were only 355 cases per week in New South Wales, but three weeks later that number rose to 3,775 in one week.

About one-fifth of these children developed life-threatening bronchiolitis, and 40% of them were hospitalized.

On Daily Mail Australiainfectious disease researcher Dr. John-Sebastian Eden said the triple threat from RSV, influenza and Covid-19 filled the emergency department at Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney, calling the situation a “general triple epidemic”.

In Australia, the reopening of borders following the lifting of travel restrictions coincided with the return of influenza to the country and the spread of new strains of RSV.

A respiratory syncytial virus that particularly affects infants

Unlike Covid-19, young children are particularly affected by this respiratory syncytial virus. While it is usually a winter illness, as early as the summer of 2021, an unexpected increase in RSV cases was observed in an Australia that has experienced several lockdowns due to the health crisis.

Symptoms include runny nose, cough, decreased eating and fever. Complications include wheezing and difficulty breathing, which can progress to pneumonia.

It is the main cause of lung infections in children, which usually causes bronchiolitis.

Severe cases can sometimes lead to death, mainly in very young children. Almost all children have had an RSV infection by the age of two, but infants in their first year of life are more likely to have serious infections that require hospitalization because their airways are smaller. Babies have also not gained immunity to RSV in previous years.

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