New Zealand hospitals have a high number of children infected with non-COVID-19-related respiratory illnesses due to the lockdown and social distancing norms.
Auckland’s Starship Children’s Hospital has been postponing planned surgeries to ensure there are enough hands to care for all sick children due to the outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The hospital is also urging parents not to bring children to other children.
Sick beds have also been installed in a playroom at Middlemore Hospital as it had become out of place in the regular wards.
Dr Brian Beatty, medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs, said his own medical practice has seen a spike in children with respiratory diseases.
“Last year we didn’t have any of these diseases because of the country’s lockdown – the kids’ immunity has dropped a bit, and the illness they’re actually getting is a little bit more severe than we normally see,” Betty told New Zealand Herald.
“This year it has re-emerged and has put a lot of pressure on both general practice and hospitals.”
People of all ages can contract RSV, which often manifests as a common cold in adults. However, it is the leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one year of age and can therefore be fatal.
“There have certainly been a lot of admissions and presentations to be admitted to wards in emergency departments, urgent care facilities and hospitals,” Betty said. “Potentially some babies could end up in the ICU.”
New Zealand Pediatrician Philip Moore told Stuff.co.nz reported that she had not seen this level of sick children needing hospital care in her 28 years at Hawke’s Bay Hospital.
Most NZ children usually become infected with RSV before the age of two. However, found in a study That the 2020 lockdown has resulted in a 99.9 percent reduction in influenza virus and 98 percent in RSV compared to 2015-19.
a paper This is called “immune debt” by a group of French scientists, which is due to “lack of immune stimulation due to reduced circulation of microbial agents”.
NZ’s Environmental Science and Research Institute (ESR) revealed that there have been nearly 1,000 cases of RSV in the five weeks to July 7. Meanwhile, the normal annual average number of cases during the 21 weeks of winter is 1,743.
“The exponential growth is very rapid. The absence of RSV last winter meant there was a younger group of children from last year, as well as a new group this year, who have not been exposed to the seasonal virus,” says ESR Virologist soo huang said. “So overall, there are more people in our population who are more vulnerable to RSV infection.”
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the government was concerned about a sharp jump in RSV cases, but hospitals had “very good” prevention measures in place to contain the virus.
Since the beginning of the year, the far north of Queensland in Australia also saw an increase in RSV cases.