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‘Like adults, children too can be asymptomatic carriers’

This time, according to Dr Mahesh Hiranandani, a well-known pediatrician, the worst affected are in the age group of 25 to 45 years, with a rising number of children also testing positive for Covid.

Written by Parul | Chandigarh |
April 19, 2021 3:47:12 am
COVID testing at Civil Hospital in Ludhiana on Sunday. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen people of all age groups getting infected, unlike the first wave, where the rate of mortality and infection was higher in the elderly.

This time, according to Dr Mahesh Hiranandani, a well-known pediatrician, the worst affected are in the age group of 25 to 45 years, with a rising number of children also testing positive for Covid.

“According to WHO, children less than 10 years constitute 8.5 per cent of the total Covid cases, but the overall figures are grossly underrepresented, with a recent study indicating that as many as three billion people will be affected. In the first wave, children first came with respiratory symptoms like cough, sore throat, fever, but in this wave, there are GI symptoms like diarrhoea, vomiting stomach ache, fever. Children are as likely to bring the infection home and give it to others, so they have to follow all protocols. The exponential rise can be attributed to the mutations and callous human behaviour, as we refuse to wear masks, maintain social distancing and carry on with our rallies, religious events, socialising, without understanding the severity of the situation. Not only infections, but reinfections will also rise and we must ensure that we follow norms and not become super-spreaders.”

Professor Surjit Singh, head, Department of Paediatrics, PGI, agrees that children across age groups are coming to PGI with Covid-19, though the mortality rates are low among children, as is the severity of the disease. According to doctors at the Covid Hospital, NHE, PGI, the age group affected is 0-12 years, and on average, around 8-12 children were admitted in NHE-PNICU in the last 10 days. One parent is allowed with the patient, as the emotional and psychological support during acute illness is very crucial in children. Those children who require high oxygen or ventilation are given steroids, Remdesivir, Tocilizumab and Immunoglobulin accordingly with dose adjustments and are considered as critically ill children on the clinical picture and inflammatory markers. Antibiotics are also given to cover for secondary bacterial infections and other life-saving support therapies are also initiated based on clinical needs. As for the recovery rate, doctors assure that the recovery in children is very good if there are no underlying co-morbidities like heart disease, kidney disease etc.

Dr Jayashree of the Advanced Paediatric Centre, PGI, says that there is a surge in the overall number of cases in both adults and children, and many people are contracting the infection from unknown sources. She agrees it is important to ensure the same measures as in adults with physical distancing, use of masks for personal protection and hand hygiene measures.

The second wave of Covid has come with increased virulence and has expanded its coverage of age groups, says Dr Zafar Ahmed, senior consultant, critical care, pulmonology and chest, Fortis Hospital, Mohali. “We are witnessing more children with confirmed Covid now. The children range from all age groups from newborns to teenagers.”

He added: “It’s too early to put forward any data but experience says that a sizeable number of children are now getting infected. Thankfully the disease severity is mainly mild to moderate and they are responding well to treatment. Like adults, children too can be asymptomatic carriers. Therefore universal Covid precautions must be enforced and the high-risk groups include hostels, schools, coaching centers, and playgroups. Standard preventive measures are a must.”

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