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Will Covid third wave hit children hard? Here’s what AIIMS director has to say

Dr. Randeep Guleria further said it is better not to use the term 'Black Fungus' while talking of mucormycosis, stating that it leads to a lot of avoidable confusion.

In the case of children with MIS-C, the ICU management teams are crucial.

AIIMS Director Dr. Randeep Guleria on Monday pointed out that though it has been said children will be infected the most during the third Covid-19 wave, the pediatrics association has stated that this is not based on facts. It might not impact children and so people should not fear, he added.

The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) has said that though children remain susceptible to infection, it was “highly unlikely that the third wave will predominantly or exclusively affect children”. It also said that there was no evidence to suggest that most children with Covid-19 infection will have severe disease in the third wave.

Stating that almost 90 per cent of the infections in children so far has been mild or asymptomatic, IAP in an advisory said, “The most important reason is the lesser expression of specific receptors to which this virus binds to enter the host, and also their immune system. A very small percentage of infected children may develop moderate-severe disease. If there is a massive increase in the overall numbers of infected individuals, a large number of children with moderate-severe disease may be seen… Children are as susceptible as adults and older individuals to develop infection, but not severe disease. It is highly unlikely that the third wave will predominantly or exclusively affect children.”

Dr. Guleria further said it is better not to use the term ‘Black Fungus’ while talking of mucormycosis, stating that it leads to a lot of avoidable confusion. He said labeling the same fungus with names of different colors can create confusion. “Black fungus is another family. This term got associated with mucormycosis due to the presence of black dots among the culture of white fungal colonies. In general, there are various types of fungal infections such as candida, aspergillosis, cryptococcus, histoplasmosis and coccidioidomycosis. Mucormycosis, candida and aspergillosis are the ones observed more in those with low immunity,” he said.

“The number of cases of Black Fungus being reported is increasing, but it is not a communicable disease, meaning it does not spread from one person to another, like Covid does,” he added.

Niti Aayog (health) member VK Paul had earlier said since children can get infected and spread the infection to others, efforts are on to ensure that they are not part of the transmission chain.

In a meeting with district magistrates and field officials of 10 states on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said there is a need for the collection of data on the transmission of Covid among youth and children in each district.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had earlier written to the Union Ministry of Health and Welfare (MoHFW) as well as the Indian Council Medical Research (ICMR) asking them to start preparing keeping in mind the projections that the third wave can affect more children.

The commission sent directions to all states to supply information on facilities available in their districts to treat children for Covid-19.

“The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is impacting several children and adolescents as India grapples with escalating virus cases in the second wave of this pandemic situation. Doctors have confirmed that even newborns and infants are testing Covid-19 positive, though their condition remains under control and rarely turns fatal. Further, a third wave of Covid-19 is projected to hit the country and according to experts, it may affect children in large numbers. There are guidelines on the management of the new born in a maternity ward and in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), but there is an urgent need to reorganize a Neonatal/children Emergency Transport Service (NETS) to prepare specifically for neonatal [cases] and children for third wave of Covid-19,” stated the NCPCR letter addressed to Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on May 15.

The Delhi government has set up a task force comprising pediatricians, experts, and senior IAS officers to come up with plans and measures to safeguard children from the next wave of Covid. Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech has been granted permission for conducting the phase II/III clinical trial of Covaxin for those in the age group of 2 to 18 years.

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