Recently, an increase in cases of severe myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, has been observed in newborns and infants, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Between June 2022 and March 2023, 15 babies in the United Kingdom, including 10 in Wales and five in England, were affected. Nine of these babies tested positive for enterovirus, a type of virus that usually causes mild illness.
Typically, enterovirus does not affect the heart, but it can lead to severe illness in very young babies. Eight of the affected babies were treated in intensive care, where they were put on a ventilator and received circulatory support.
Unfortunately, one baby died, while the other seven have since recovered. The cause of the spike in cases remains unknown, and an investigation is ongoing.
Public Health Wales reported that ten babies under the age of one month were treated for enterovirus and myocarditis, with one baby tragically passing away.
The rise in severe myocarditis among infants has left health officials puzzled, and further cases could lead to childcare facilities and schools closing, warns the WHO.
Last winter, lockdown restrictions were blamed for weakening immunity, which led to virus outbreaks among children such as Strep A. However, no reports of severe myocarditis have been reported since March, although cases peaked last November.
One family, in particular, experienced the tragedy of losing their newborn son, Elijah, to the infection. Elijah’s parents, Joann and Christian Edwards were devastated by their loss and later discovered that multiple other Welsh babies had been fighting the same rare condition.
Elijah was healthy when he was born and was discharged from the hospital a day later. Only his father and healthcare professionals saw him during that time due to coronavirus restrictions. Within a few days, he began exhibiting symptoms of lethargy and constipation, which were initially attributed to jaundice.
When he stopped feeding a week later, his parents rushed him to A&E, where he was diagnosed with sepsis and then bronchiolitis. His condition deteriorated, and stress on his heart was detected, leading to a transfer to Bristol Children’s Hospital, where the enterovirus was identified.
Elijah’s parents were told that he had likely contracted the virus within 24 hours of being born, which came as a shock to them. While they still seek answers to their son’s death, they are grateful for their daughter and continue to move forward.