Updated: May 8, 2021 1:46:52 am
A nine-member Paediatric Task Force has submitted a comprehensive plan for treating children with Covid-19 to the Maharashtra government.
CM Uddhav Thackeray last week set up the task force under the chairmanship of Dr Suhas Prabhu in an attempt to brace for the next wave, where experts believe children may be most vulnerable.
Late Thursday night, Thackeray held a meeting with paediatricians, members of the state Covid task force, health minister and state officials to discuss preparation for infrastructure for children.
Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Friday said that while there is a vaccination programme for those aged more than 18 years, children and teenagers are still vulnerable to the infection. “Based on guidelines the paediatric task force prepares, we will set up more sick new born care units (SNCUs), more ventilators suited for infants and prepare a separate line of medication for them,” Tope said. He added that a treatment system where mothers can be present along with children will be needed to treat Covid-19 infected children.
Of 48.93 lakh Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra, 10 per cent cases have been reported from those aged less than 20 years. Of that 1.49 lakh are children aged less than 10 years.
The nine-member task force has recommended setting up fever clinics with paediatricians or trained staff to screen children with Covid symptoms. Prabhu said children suffer diarrhoea, loss of appetite and fever as common signs of Covid-19, unlike adults who suffer weakness, body pain, fever, loss of smell and taste.
Members said a decision to open paediatric units and maternal units in jumbo centres has also been taken. They will have to ramp up oxygen. Prabhu said that since the first wave attacked senior citizens more, and the second wave saw a shift to young adults, they believe the third wave may affect children who are largely left unprotected by vaccination. “We saw that in Brazil, young kids are catching Covid-19,” he said.
Not just treatment, the task force also plans to help children deal with bereavement. A member of paediatric task force, paediatrician Dr Samir Dalwai, said children have been house-bound for over a year now. “Those who lost one or both parent to the virus need help to cope. Counselling of a child is also important,” he said.
Doctors said paediatric treatment of Covid-19 is different from adult treatment, anti-viral Remdesivir is not recommended except in rare cases. Member Dr Shashank Joshi said it is also possible that children may not be affected by the third wave. “But we are staying prepared.”
The CM asked state officials to prepare for third wave in order to “ensure no child dies due to lack of treatment”.
Dr Rahul Pandit, member of State Covid Task Force, said that in the second wave he has noted a rise in paediatric Covid cases in absolute numbers as well as a slight rise in percentage of total cases. “Last year hardly a few needed admission, this time some children required hospitalisation. This indicates we need to have a treatment modality in place to prepare if there is any rise,” he said.
Meanwhile, in NESCO jumbo centre, an exclusive 400-bedded facility will be set up for children.
Dr Tanu Singhal, paediatric infectious disease expert in Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital, said the state’s absolute numbers may not be reflective of the actual count of infected children. “Parents mostly don’t opt for testing kids. Last year we saw asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic children, this year the severity has increased. Having said that, children are able to cope with the virus better than adults,” Singhal said.
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