BY KIM VUGA
MARCH 21, 2020
As cases of the Coronavirus spreads across the globe many parents have been relieved of reports from medical professions believing that children have been spared and that COVID-19 infects children, but less severely than adults.
However, according to a newly published study in Pediatrics, it is the preschool aged children and babies who run the risk of more serious infections given that the younger they are the less their immune system has developed as compared to older children.
In addition, the NEJM study, researchers used data from the China CDC to assess symptomatic and asymptomatic children who had contact with people with confirmed or possible infection at Wuhan's only designated COVID-19 pediatric hospital.
Of the 1,391 children tested from Jan 28 to Feb 26, 171 (12.3%) had confirmed infection, and 1 (0.6%) died of the disease. Median age of infected children was 6.7 years.
Many (41.5%) had fever, and cough and throat redness were also common. Twenty-seven (15.8%) had no symptoms or signs of pneumonia on x-ray, while 12 (7.0%) had signs on x-ray but no symptoms, for an asymptomatic rate of 22.8%. "Determination of the transmission potential of these asymptomatic patients is important for guiding the development of measures to control the ongoing pandemic," the authors wrote.
Low lymphocyte levels were found in six patients (3.5%), while x-ray showed areas of fluid buildup in both lungs in 32.7%.
Three patients, all with underlying medical conditions, needed intensive care and mechanical ventilation. The comorbidities included hydronephrosis (enlarged kidney due to retention of urine), leukemia (including receipt of chemotherapy), and intussusception (intestinal blockage).
The child with intussusception, a 10-month-old, had multi-organ failure and died 4 weeks after hospital admission. As of Mar 8, 21 patients were in stable condition in non–intensive care unit beds, and 149 had been released, according to the letter.
Another study that was published in the Frontiers in Pediatrics found babies born by C-section may be less likely to catch Coronavirus than those born naturally.
Twelve babies born in Wuhan by C-section had no symptoms of the virus even though all twelve mothers were infected.
One mother also infected was advanced in labour and delivered naturally and that baby was okay too.
Yet, it is well known babies can be exposed to viruses in the birth canal during vaginal delivery with C-sections reducing the risk has left many obstetricians believing that C-section might be safer.
All studies of children and COVID-19 so far have led to the conclusion that all ages of children appeared susceptible to COVID-19 and young children in particular were more vulnerable to infection.
While it is not just our elderly and children that can suffer serious disease when infected with COVID-19, more and more evidence coming out of Italy has shown disturbing figures that half of everyone infected with COVID-19 are aged between 20 and 50 years old.
A Belgium doctor who treated several very serious young patients stated, their lung scans were “nothing short of terrifying.”
Dr Ignace Demeyer from Aalst said,
“An increasing number of people between the ages of 30 and 50 had presented with severe symptoms, despite having no records of previous underlying conditions such as heart failure or diabetes and they were people who had never smoked”.
While there appears to be conflicting reports in the media when it comes to seriously ill children and children dying from COVID-19 there are documented reports that two children aged one and fourteen died from serious infection from COVID-19.
Studies are proving that children under the age of five are not only susceptible but they are still likely to be carriers and thus may act as asymptomatic transmitters of the virus and have shown very high virility in throat swabs even while some children had mild signs of the disease or even no signs of COVID-19 yet, tested positive.
Professor of children's respiratory health at Perth's Telethon Kids Institute, Stephen Stick, said there was an information void about the potential impact on children with pre-existing conditions.
"There are some questions though that need to be answered because of the way different children handle viruses depending on an underlying condition," he said.
"Which might mean that they aren't able to clear the virus as quickly from the respiratory tract and could potentially therefore have a more prolonged illness, and also become transmitters of disease for longer periods."
While the elderly from the age of sixty and upwards appear to have higher mortality rates given their age and having additional underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease, we shouldn’t discount those in their 30’s to 50’s or in particularly children under five who will also be at risk.
Don’t be stupid and think that what we are seeing in Italy won’t happen here, because we are right on track and are currently following the very same trajectory.
Nobody is immune to the deadly COVID-19 and all of us need to take extreme caution to keep our family and our loved ones safe. If we don't, we will lose an entire generation of parents and grandparents just like the heartbreakingly scenes we are seeing unfolding in Italy right now.