Brain Abscesses in Children Increased Last Winter: CDC

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June 2, 2023 – The number of brain abscesses in children rose sharply last winter, along with the number of respiratory infections, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report this week. 

While stressing that brain abscesses in children are still rare, the CDC said a study of hospital data “showed a higher-than-expected number of pediatric intracranial infections beginning in August 2021, with a large peak during winter 2022 [to] 2023.”

The infections are often a complication of respiratory infections and sinusitis, the CDC said.

The federal health agency began looking at trends in children’s brain abscesses in May 2022 after doctors in Clark County, NV, and California reported clusters of cases. A first analysis of cases through May 2022 found case counts in the normal range, but a further analysis of cases through March 2023 found a definite increase.

Researchers looked at the Children’s Hospital Association database, which includes medical records from 37 children’s hospitals in 19 states and Washington, DC. 

Between 2016 and 2019, before the pandemic, a monthly median of 34 brain abscess cases was reported, with 61 being the maximum for a single month. The number of cases fell during the pandemic (May 2020 to May 2021) as people social-distanced, the CDC said.

After the lockdown was lifted, the number of brain abscess cases rose. Starting in August 2021, the number exceeded the pre-pandemic median of 34 and went over the maximum of 61 cases in December 2022, when a high of 102 brain abscess cases was reported. The numbers dropped from January to March 2023, but still remained above the pre-pandemic monthly maximum, the CDC said.

“That would be consistent with seeing secondary bacterial infections a few weeks or months after the viral spread,” Sunil Sood, MD, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center, told CNN.

The CDC said that all people 18 and younger should stay up to date with recommended vaccinations, including those for the flu and COVID-19.