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27 May, 2024
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Coronavirus: How it can affect the immune system of children

A rise in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

Kathimerini Greece Newsroom

In March 2021, Maimonides Pediatric Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, was suddenly confronted with increased admissions of children and infants with coughing symptoms and breathing problems.

These children were infected with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) , a common winter-borne pathogen that can cause lung problems.

In March, however, RSV cases should normally have subsided but instead increased sharply.

Life has changed, the world has changed, and these viruses are evolving and behaving in unpredictable ways

In the months that followed, the "off-season" RSV outbreaks caused problems during the summer even in places as far away as New York, such as the southern United States, Switzerland, Japan and the United Kingdom.

The role of Covid-19
The strange behavior of the virus seems to be the indirect consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic , according to doctors. Last year, lockdowns and health measures reduced the spread of not only the coronavirus but also other viruses such as RSV. Thus, children did not have the opportunity to build immunity against these pathogens.

When the measures were relaxed, RSV was able to infect a large number of vulnerable children and infants, which led to sudden outbreaks and even unexpected periods of time.

A pathogen that was previously relatively predictable has reached the point of surprising hospitals and families at any time of the year.

Out-of-season outbursts pushed hospital wards to their limits, put families on alert and showed how deeply Covid has affected the world and measures to contain it.

A lesson for the future
At the Maimonides Clinic, the RSV outbreak has subsided, but the head of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Department, Rabia Aga, sees the issue as a broader lesson for hospitals to adapt to a "post-Covid" world.

"What he taught us is that we need to be prepared," he said. "The times are not the same as they were two years ago. "Life has changed, the world has changed, and these viruses are evolving and behaving in unpredictable ways."

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