Brain infections in Las Vegas children see recent spike

Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 9:24 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Doctors in Southern Nevada are watching a brain infection spike in kids. Cases tripled over the course of 2022, mostly affecting boys around age 12.

“We might see one or two a year,” pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Taryn Bragg said Friday about the usual rate of infections. “In this particular case, we were seeing large numbers of kids. We saw 18 in a very short period of time.”

As for what is causing the spike, Dr. Bragg, who works with Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital in Las Vegas, says extensive studies have not found a correlation with COVID-19, the vaccine, or anything else.

“One of the other theories was whether there could be some immunity deficiencies related to quarantining and masking, but there really isn’t any evidence to suggest or support that with this study,” Dr. Bragg said.

The CDC reports this infection typically spreads to the brain from another area, likely through a sinus, ear or dental infection. Symptoms can include fever, bulging, soft spots on the head, abnormal sleepiness and high-pitched crying.

The infection is caused by a bacteria that’s actually very common.

“It’s an anaerobic gram-positive bacterium that most of us have in our nasal cavity and in our oral cavity,” Dr. Bragg explained. “So the fact that it’s present does not necessarily mean that it’s going to cause an infection.”

Some children are at higher risk than others. That includes those with diabetes and those with a weak immune system.

If you’re unsure about whether your child has this infection, Dr. Bragg says you’ll likely know it’s there.

“At the time of presentation, these children were very sick,” she said. “It’s not something subtle. It’s not that you’re going to have an infection and not know that you have an infection.”

Some good news, though: since the start of 2023, cases have decreased.