Virologists say that the spate of virus-induced diseases, particularly among children, could be indirectly related to the Covid pandemic.

On Saturday, at least three children died following viral respiratory infections at a government hospital in Kolkata.

One scientist, formerly associated with the National Institute of Virology, Pune, said most children born just before or during the Covid pandemic were less exposed to other viruses and hence, have less immunity compared to those older than them and who had exposure to other viruses like the Adenovirus.

Three children, aged between two months and 11 months, died at the Dr BC Roy Post Graduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences on Saturday. Doctors said all of them were suffering from adenovirus-induced pneumonia.

One of the deceased, Aradhya Chattopadhayay, was admitted to the hospital on Friday afternoon with complaints of fever and breathing problems. The child, barely two-months-and-15 days old was declared dead on Saturday morning. The family hailed from Hatiara in Rajarhat.

The second, Rayan Gazi was admitted to the state health facility in Kankurgachi a few days back from Dum Dum. Doctors said the 11-month-old child had similar complaints of fever and respiratory distress and he was put on a ventilator. The child developed pneumonia and passed away early on Saturday morning. 

The third child was six months old and was admitted to the hospital on February 23 from Kalyani in Nadia. Doctors said he was admitted to the College of Medicine and JNM Hospital in Kalyani with fever and breathing trouble. He was brought to Dr BC Roy hospital after his condition started deteriorating.

“Over 36 children are, at present, on ventilation in the hospital,” said a senior doctor of the hospital.

“This time of the year there is always an increase in viral infections because of the weather conditions. However, the unusual spurt in viral infections among children and newborn could be because of their lack of immunity and exposure to the viruses, including Adenovirus,” said Mandeep Chadha, a former senior official of NIV, Pune.

“Since the outbreak of Covid pandemic, we were following all the safety protocols like staying at home, avoiding gatherings and wearing masks. So, many children, born just before or during the Covid pandemic mostly stayed at home and hence had very little exposure to other viruses,” Chadha said.

According to the scientist, the lack of exposure meant a lack of immunity against such viruses.

“Now, after everything has opened up, the children are exposed to the viruses,” Chadha said.

A state health department official said most of the children who have died till now because of the viral respiratory diseases were below two years.

“Also most of them were suffering from comorbidity and malnutrition, which too are important factors,” said Siddhartha Niyogi, the state’s director of health services. 

The Telegraph has reported how paediatric hospitals, particularly the government facilities here, are overcrowded with patients. 

Chandramouli Bhattacharya, an infectious diseases specialist at the Peerless Hospital, said the paediatrics ward at the hospital has remained unusually busy this year. 

“If we compare with the pre-Covid years, people with respiratory tract infections requiring hospitalisation has been higher this year,” he said. Bhattacharya added that he was speaking mainly based on an eye estimation.

The number of respiratory tract infections has been higher among both adults and children. 

Bhattacharya said it could be that the current Adenovirus strain is a mutated strain.“This, along with favourable weather conditions are the likely reasons for the surge.”

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