Children infected with three viruses at a time because COVID measures have worn down immune systems
Children are turning up in doctors’ clinics with as many as three different types of viruses in their nasal passages, in what experts say is the result of their immune systems being weakened by two years of COVID policy.
Medical staff expect an increase in the flu and severe colds in the winter.
But they report there isn’t the usual downturn as summer approaches — and they suspect it could be due to the strict pandemic practices.
In addition, some common strains of flu seem to have disappeared, fooling scientists.
Thomas Murray, an infection control expert and associate professor of pediatrics at Yale, said: The Washington Post on Monday that his team saw children with combinations of seven common viruses — adenovirus, rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human metapneumovirus, flu and parainfluenza, as well as the coronavirus.
Some children were admitted with two viruses and a few with three, he said — an unusual occurrence.
“That’s not typical for every time of year and certainly not typical in May and June,” he said.
CDC data obtained by DailyMail.com showed lower overall levels of influenza infections in young children – but an abnormal rise that started several weeks ago during the early summer months, normally a dead period for respiratory infections.
In the warmer months, the flu virus normally dies out (see red line, from 2019). In 2019, the infections peaked in the 10th week of the year, in March. But this year (blue line) it has remained constant and has not disappeared, much to the dismay of scientists
Children aged 0-4 are seeing an increase in viral infections, which experts believe may be due to not being exposed to the usual viral load – thanks to pandemic precautions
Other strange patterns have emerged.
The rhinovirus, known as the common cold, isn’t normally serious enough to send people to the hospital — but now it is.
Michael Mina, an epidemiologist and chief science officer at the digital health platform eMed, described the current situation as a “large-scale natural experiment”
RSV normally decreases in warmer weather, just like the flu, but it doesn’t.
And the Yamagata flu strain hasn’t been seen since early 2020 — which researchers say could be because it’s extinct, or maybe just dormant and waiting for the right time to return.
“It’s a huge natural experiment,” said Michael Mina, an epidemiologist and chief science officer at the digital health platform eMed.
“If you have a lot of people who don’t have immunity, the impact of the season is less. It’s like free play,” he said.
The virus “can overcome seasonal barriers.”
Peter Hotez, a molecular virologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, agreed that standards are shifting and seasonal patterns no longer apply.
“You would see a child with a fever and think, ‘What time of year is it?’ ‘ he said.
This computer-simulated model, developed by researchers at Purdue University, shows that the receptors of the common cold virus, rhinovirus 16, attach to the virus’ outer protein shell.
The shifts are also causing hospitals to rethink their approach to RSV — a common virus that hospitalizes about 60,000 children under the age of five each year. It can cause deadly lung infections in particularly vulnerable young people.
Treatment is with monthly doses of a monoclonal antibody, which is normally only available from November to February.
Now concerned scientists are closely monitoring the virus, in case they suddenly need the drug.
Ellen Foxman, an immunobiologist at the Yale School of Medicine, whose research examines why viruses can make one person very sick but leave another relatively unharmed, said babies born during the pandemic are likely to be of great interest to scientists.
“Those kids didn’t have an infection at a crucial time of lung development,” she said.
Foxman added that much has been learned in recent years, both by the population as a whole and by scientists, about viruses and how to prevent infection.
“We need to take some of the lessons we’ve learned into the future,” she said.