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WHO Issues Warning on “Unusual” Surge of Severe Myocarditis Cases in Newborns and Infants

The World Health Organization (WHO) has sounded the alarm over a significant increase in cases of “severe myocarditis” among newborns and infants in Wales and England.

The WHO issued a warning on Tuesday, drawing attention to a worrying increase in these severe cases of myocarditis between June 2022 and March 2023 and recommending increased awareness and further investigation into the underlying causes.

“On 5 April 2023, the National IHR Focal Point for the United Kingdom informed WHO of an increase in severe myocarditis in neonates associated with enterovirus infection in Wales,” according to the news release.

There were ten newborns hospitalized with myocarditis, and one of them died.

“Between June 2022 and April 2023, ten hospitalized neonates with a positive enterovirus Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test were found to have myocarditis. Seven of the ten cases had further subtyping, with either coxsackie B3 or coxsackie B4 identified. As of 5 May 2023, one patient was still hospitalized, and one had died.”

According to a UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) representative who spoke with The Epoch Times, there were also five cases of myocarditis in England.

Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, can lead to significant complications and, in severe cases, even result in heart failure. Typically, enterovirus infections in neonates and young infants tend to be mild and self-limiting. However, the recent surge in severe myocarditis cases with adverse outcomes in this population is highly unusual and warrants immediate attention.

“Although enterovirus infections are common in neonates and young infants, the reported increase in myocarditis with severe outcomes in neonates and infants associated with enterovirus infection is unusual,” said WHO.

WHO added that epidemiological investigations are ongoing.

More from the WHO’s news release:

On 5 April 2023, the National IHR Focal Point for the United Kingdom informed WHO of an increase in severe myocarditis in neonates and infants associated with enterovirus infection in Wales.

Between June 2022 and April 2023, ten neonates, under 28 days of age, presented with a picture consistent with  myocarditis and a positive enterovirus PCR. Seven cases were treated in intensive care, and one case died before transfer to tertiary care. Cases presented with features of sepsis, myocarditis, or in cardiorespiratory arrest. The peak incidence of cases was in November 2022, with sporadic cases in other months.

Enterovirus PCR testing of all ten cases (with either blood, throat swab, nose swab, nasopharyngeal aspirate or cerebrospinal fluid samples) confirmed the presence of an enterovirus, subtyping (where available) to either coxsackie B3 or coxsackie B4.

Critical care support including intubation, ventilation and circulatory support was given to the patients who went to intensive care.

As of 5 May 2023, one patient was still hospitalised and one had died.

The reported increase in severe myocarditis in neonates and infants associated with enterovirus infection is unusual. In the tertiary hospital covering the South Wales region, two other similar cases have been identified in the 6 years prior to June 2022.

A further five cases have been identified over the same period in the Southwest of England. No additional information is currently available about these cases. Details of five of the cases from South Wales and three of the additional cases from Southwest England have recently been published (Ng et al., 2023).

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