New COVID-19 surge | Children not more vulnerable, high risk population needs care, say experts

‘Schools should continue to function for offline classes in full capacity’

April 24, 2022 08:52 pm | Updated April 25, 2022 10:02 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Picture used for representational purposes only. File

Picture used for representational purposes only. File | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

The daily rise in COVID–19 numbers is no cause for concern and India’s focus should be on protecting those who may develop severe outcomes after the infection, say experts.

“The high risk and vulnerable population needs to be protected. The children are at the least risk of developing poor outcomes. In this backdrop, the schools should continue to function for offline classes in full capacity,’’ said public health expert Chandrakant Lahariya. 

He said that in the context of children getting infection or being more prone, “they are not an exception.’.

“In case of developing moderate to severe disease after SARS–CoV–2 infection – chance of getting severe disease for healthy children is very low,’’ he said.

“Children are equally susceptible to COVID as adults,’’ said Dr. Suresh Kumar Panuganti, lead consultant — Pediatric Critical Care and Pediatric, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, speaking about this cohort which is now being followed more carefully with all educational institutions open and their numbers – testing positive — slowly climbing up.

“Kids of various age groups pose different problems because of the change in physiology and their exposure, making them a peculiar group of population, hence requiring special precautions,’’ said Dr. Panuganti.

He said school–going children are at a higher risk of being exposed to multiple viruses owing to the close proximity to a group of children especially if one of them is unwell. He said children tend to have less severity as compared to adults, but precise mechanisms are unknown for this trend.

Doctors confirm that the maximum infection is occurring in non–vaccinated people. “Yes, in this surge we are getting more children with infection. Most have symptoms of flu including fever, sore throat, runny stool. Reinfection is seen in immunocompromised patients, patients with multiple co–morbidities and patients at risk for COVID like health care personnel,’’ said Dr. Bhumesh Tyagi, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Sharda Hospital, Greater Noida.

Cautioning at arriving at any specific trends in assigning that there are more cases among children, Ambarish Dutta, additional professor, Epidemiology, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), said there is “no evidence to suggest that more children are getting infected in this surge specifically. The periodic age–wise analysis of previous surges has shown the proportion of children among infected has remained same more or less”.

“The data of this current surge has to be disaggregated by age group and then looked into for any such indication. However, apparently, more children may seem to get infected because schools are now open.’’

Stating that there has been a slight increase in the daily tally, there is a dire need to follow the precautionary measures, especially for those who are highly susceptible, said Dr. Sachin Kandhari, senior neurosurgeon, IBS Hospital, Delhi.

“Though the vaccination drive has acted as a shield in protecting many people, yet following the social distancing norms, wearing masks, avoiding crowded places etc will help secure from the infection.’’

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