New Zealand was previously hailed for its swift and effective response against the COVID-19 virus that quickly spread worldwide in 2020, but recently, a new type of virus is responsible for an outbreak threatening young children in the country.
Experts believe the major contributor to the recent outbreak was last year's strict lockdowns. Young children were forced to stay indoors amid the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. When the country finally reopened last winter, some children contracted seasonal viruses and infections after allegedly being underexposed to germs, health officials said.
New Virus Infections
The nation commonly observes a surge in respiratory infections between June and September, which is not the case in 2020. New Zealand observed a complete absence of the annual winter influenza epidemic. A study published in Nature in February noted that there was a 99/9% reduction in flu cases and a 98% reduction in R.S.V.
In New Zealand, winter started about five weeks ago and officials have reported no confirmed coronavirus infections. However, there has been a surge of patients in children's wards, many of which were infants. Some of the victims were suffering from deadly diseases. Some elementary schools have also reported about half of their students have been absent, citing respiratory illness as the cause, the New York Times reported.
Within that time frame, authorities have recorded 969 cases of R.S.V. as compared to the average of 1,743 in the entire winter season in the last five years prior to the coronavirus pandemic. The New Zealand's Institute of Environmental Science and Research noted the infections occurred within the 29-week season period.
Dr. Sue Huang, a virologist at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research and the lead author of the Nature study, said the surge of new infections has yet to reach its peak. She said the number of cases is increasing exponentially. Last year's absence of R.S.V. said there are many children that have not yet been exposed to the seasonal virus, Huang said.
The incident comes amid a recent issue where New Zealand officials discovered that a traveler from Australia, who was allegedly infected with the COVID-19 virus, visited the country over the weekend. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the nation has taken a zero-tolerance approach to potential cases in an attempt to completely thwart the spread of the health crisis, the Associated Press reported.
Deadly Syncytial Virus
New Zealand was praised for its effective strategy that resulted in only 26 confirmed COVID-19 deaths among its five million residents. However, the vaccination process within the country has been one of the slowest among well-developed countries, having only a 13% vaccination rate among its citizens.
One of the most recent cases of the syncytial virus took the life of a 63-year-old north Auckland woman. The family of the victim expressed their grievances after the incident. They noted that the woman died inside her Stanmore Bay home on Wednesday morning. She was previously discharged on Monday from North Shore Hospital, the New Zealand Herald reported.