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COVID-19 and Children | Article by Dr.Daisy Lekharu

 COVID-19 and Children

        COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new type of Coronavirus called SARS- Co-V2. It is a new virus and research is going on to know more about the virus and the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared this as a pandemic in March 2020 when it spreads worldwide to many countries. 

How is its presence felt?
    It is commonly identified with fever, cough, fatigue and may also be present with other symptoms as well. In the early part of the pandemic, it was found to affect the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, etc . However, later it was seen that it  can  attack people of any age group including children as well. 80 percent of the people recover and have mild symptoms without the need to be admitted in a hospital; 15 percent may develop severe infections and 5 percent may be critically ill as per WHO. However, there have also been rare cases of children with severe infection as well. 

How does it spread?
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person (generated through coughing and sneezing). Individuals can also be infected if after touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, they touch their face (e.g., eyes, nose, mouth).
Based on the current evidences, it is found that the virus spreads mainly between people who are in close contact with each other, typically within 1 metre (short-range). The time for symptoms to appear may take up to two weeks from the time one is exposed.

Isolation and Quarantine: 
        We come across the two terms commonly used ‘Isolation’ and ‘Quarantine’ and it is important to understand the distinctions between the two and below are the definitions given by WHO:

        Quarantine is the restriction of activities  or the separation of persons who are not ill, but who may have been exposed to an infectious agent or disease, with the objective of monitoring their symptoms and ensuring the early detection of cases. For COVID-19, this means staying in the facility or at home for 14 days. 

    The term 'Isolation' is used for people with COVID-19 symptoms or those who test positive for the virus. Being in isolation means being separated from other people, ideally at a place where you can receive clinical care.  If isolation in a medical facility is not possible and you are not in a high risk group of developing severe disease, isolation can take place at home. If you have symptoms, you should remain in isolation for at least 10 days plus an additional 3 days without symptoms. If you are infected and do not develop symptoms, you should remain in isolation for 10 days from the time you test positive. 

How to stay safe and protected?

        It is an infectious disease and the newer forms spread even faster. Hence, it is critically important to keep our children and ourselves safe and keep others safe as well. Children are also highly vulnerable to the new variants and hence need to be protected. There are simple yet critical public health measures that need to be taken and are mentioned in the section below.

Public health measures and infection control :

        Infection control is key and is of topmost priority. In earlier days, when we came back from the park or neighborhood playground, you might remember that our parents and elders used to tell us to wash our hands and feet before we entered the home. It is time to continue those practices that  always protects us from infections and infectious diseases to a large extent.

    The following public health measures are highly recommended by all to follow:-

  • Handwashing is very important. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer (with alcohol) whichever is available after you touch objects etc. Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20-30 seconds .

  • Wear a Mask: Please wear a mask regularly and cover your nose and mouth thoroughly and there should be no gap. An N95 mask is best if available or else a surgical mask is good. Wear one when in closed settings in enclosed environment with others as well.

  • Physical Distancing: It is important to maintain physical distancing at least one metre apart. Avoid hugging and touching or close contact with strangers  and do not stay together.
  • Ventilation: When in close settings, ensure that the room is well ventilated and keep the windows open and also keep the mask on . 
  • Vaccination against COVID-19: Get vaccinated and this is very important to stay safe and also keep others safe .

If the above-mentioned simple measures are not followed, the virus gets more opportunities to spread and hence change to newer forms. We need to stop the spread from one person to another and prevent the creation of the new viral forms that have shown to be more powerful and devastating than the older forms.

COVID-19 vaccines: 
    Vaccines offer protection against the disease and also control the further spread of infection to others. WHO has approved several vaccines worldwide for use :  Oxford–AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinopharm-BBIBP, Moderna, Sinovac, and Johnson & Johnson. There are other vaccines that have been approved by country regulatory authoroties and in India, there are the homegrown COVISHIELD (Serum Instutute of India)and COVAXIN ( Bharat Bio-Tech) and several other Lab trials are going on in India and other countries. 

COVID-19 vaccination and children:
    In India trials are ongoing for the use of COVID vaccine in children. Pfizer-BioNtech has been approved in the US and some countries for use in the age group of 12-15 years. There are other trials that are ongoing and we hope to have positive results.

Special Care for Children Need:
    We need to take care of our children and ensure infection control measures. We also should not forget the needs of our girls relating to menstrual hygiene products to prevent them from other potential infections.

    There have been cases of children abuse during the pandemic as most have had to stay within their homes. It is extremely important to be careful while dealing with the fragile vulnerable little minds  and understand their needs and at any cases, they should not be emotionally or physically abused or tormented.

        In conclusion, the virus is here to stay and spares none including our little children, who are the future of our nation. Hence, it is important that we learn to live safely together and also protect our future generation and ourselves. Let us spread the correct message and survive  to see a safer and better world. 

Dr.Daisy Lekharu 
Senior Public Health Expert
Geneva, Switzerland 

Illustration : Sukanya Bhardwaj

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