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What paediatricians prescribe for children in taming corona

Children in a classroom
As the coronavirus takes a toll on the world, children have accounted for the smallest percentage of infections against the old and people with other health problems. FILE PHOTO | NMG 
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As the coronavirus takes a toll on the world, children have accounted for the smallest percentage of infections against the old and people with other health problems.

The Centre for Disease Control in China, where the pandemic began, found that coronavirus fatality rate was 14.8 percent in people aged 80 or older.

By contrast, the fatality rate was 1.3 percent in people in their fifties, 0.4 percent among those who are in forties, and 0.2 percent for ages between 10 to 39.

These figures dispelled fears especially among parents, who feared for their children's health amid the pandemic.

However, recently there have been cases of younger people and even children in various countries, getting ill and dying because of Covid-19.

On April 3, Kenya announced the death of a six-year-old boy who had a pre-existing health condition dying of Covid-19.

A few days ago a six-week old infant taken to a Connecticut hospital in the US died of coronavirus. This came days after the Illinois state health department also announced the first known infant death from Covid-19.

Last month, a study published in the Journal of Paediatrics, and which looked at more than 2,000 ill children across China showed that while most children may develop mild or moderate symptoms, there is a small percentage that could become ill.

According to researchers, about 39 percent of the children became moderately sick, with additional symptoms like pneumonia or lung problems, while four percent had no symptoms.

The study further revealed that 125 children developed serious illness. More than 60 percent of the 125 were five years or younger, while 40 of them were under 12 months old.

According to Dr Shilu Tong, the study's senior author and director of the department of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at Shanghai Children's Medical Center, younger children were more susceptible to infection because their respiratory systems and other body functions are rapidly developing.

Adil Waris, consultant paediatric pulmonologist and lecturer at University of Nairobi and Agha Khan Hospital University, concurs, saying that this might be witnessed due to their low immunity.

“Also, they may face higher risk of re-infections probably from their mothers, especially during breast feeding. Apart from that, drugs that might be used to keep this virus at bay may have adverse effects to these children,” he adds.

LOWER RISK

Dr Adil, who is the chairman of the Allergy Society of Kenya, insists that children maybe at lower risk of developing complications from the virus, he adds that it might worry to an already overstretched area.

“Already respiratory diseases kill a lot of children, not just here in Kenya, but all over the world. I’ve had to deal with cases and cases of respiratory problems among children, like pneumonia, tuberculosis and bronchitis.”

If things were to get worse, there is likely to be a blockage of health facilities in hospital, he says. "For Covid -19, unlike other diseases, we might be forced to keep the patient longer for monitoring. We might need to downgrade areas for this to avoid scenarios where recovering patients are occupying beds, ventilators, or other hospital facilities, while the critically ill are facing the danger of dying due to lack of space."

LIMITING TESTS

Census 2019 data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) reveals that 35.7 million Kenyans (75.1 percent are below 35 years.

This is different from China where those above 60 years was at 18.1 percent and Italy at 23 percent.

Then does this mean Kenya should brace itself for higher numbers of younger coronavirus victims?

Dr Adil says the number of coronavirus victims based on age dynamics depends on how tests for Covid-19 are carried out.

"We have countries that are testing every person, meaning that you’ll get a representative idea of who got sick. There are those countries which are limiting their coronavirus test kits to only include those ones who are symptomatic.”

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