Karnataka recorded huge spike in number of children infected during second wave of COVID-19

According to one expert, children are not affected as much as adults because their immunological system is intact and active.   | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

Karnataka has recorded over two-fold rise in the number of children infected since March 2021 when the surge in cases of COVID-19 began.

According to data from the State COVID-19 War Room, as many as 58,818 children aged 0-9 years and 1,49,111 aged 10-19 years tested positive from March 9 till June 23, 2021. The corresponding numbers from March 8, 2020, till March 8, 2021, were 27,646 and 65,677, respectively.

The contrast in numbers is striking.

The increase in deaths is less pronounced. While 28 children aged 0-9 and 46 children aged 10-19 succumbed to the virus between March 8, 2020, and March 8, 2021, the corresponding numbers from March 9, 2021 till June 23 is 34 and 42.

Paediatric experts said although children can get infected with COVID-19 and can transmit the infection to others, they are at much lower risk compared to older adults. According to data, the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) is the lowest in children in these age groups.

The high-level expert committee set up by the Karnataka government to analyse, advise and control the third wave of COVID-19 has estimated that around 3.4 lakh out of the total 2.3 crore population in the 0-18 age group might get infected during the peak of the third wave.

The 13-member panel, headed by cardiologist Devi Prasad Shetty, has said that, based on projections by IISc., 80%-85% of children are likely to suffer a mild infection (asymptomatic) and only about 2% may need paediatric intensive care facilities.

Chikkanarasa Reddy, professor of Paediatrics at Bowring and Lady Curzon Medical College and Research Institute, said children are less likely to get infected after contact with a COVID-19 patient as they have ACE2 receptors (the main receptor for the entry of the virus into human cells) with a lower affinity for SARS-CoV-2.

“Moreover, even if they get infected, they do not develop a severe form of the disease. We have seen over 100 children admitted for COVID-19 in our hospital since March last year. Not a single child died, and recovery was also quick,” he said.

Asha Benekappa, former director of the State-run Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health, said children do not tend to develop a severe form of the disease because their immunological system is intact and active. “Except for 5%-10%, children do not have comorbidities, which is an added protective factor. Moreover, as all childhood vaccines are live viral vaccines, they are all the more protected,” she said.

“This pattern is strikingly different to that for infection with most other respiratory viruses, for which both the prevalence and severity are higher in children. However, the number of other infections too reduced in children during this pandemic. COVID-19 precautions helped in checking other infections too,” said Dr. Benekappa.who now heads the Department of Paediatrics at Dr. Chandramma Dayananda Sagar Institute of Medical Education and Research.

V. Ravi, member of the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and chairman of the State Genomic Surveillance Committee, said it is essential to upgrade government hospitals with paediatric facilities and train medical fraternity in management of paediatric patients.

“It is true that the number of children manifesting serious illness is low. But, we should not be caught unawares if a large number of children are infected during the third wave. What if there is a new mutation that can infect children the most?”

He cautioned that most district hospitals do not have paediatricians. “This is an opportunity to upgrade our hospitals for future pandemics too,” he added.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 11:16:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/karnataka-recorded-huge-spike-in-number-of-children-infected-during-second-wave-of-covid-19/article34961690.ece

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