From the start of the pandemic, children have largely been spared the severe disease that COVID- 19 can cause, but have, of course, suffered on so many other levels. Previous waves and previous COVID-variants have not seemed to attack younger children at the same rate as adults and older adolescents, and children have certainly not been found to be the big spreaders of the disease thus far.
HOWEVER, the delta variant of SARSCoV2 is different. It is MUCH, MUCH more transmissible (catchy). This means that children, who were previously less susceptible to getting and spreading COVID, are now really in the thick of it. It takes a lower viral load to be infected with and to spread the virus- including in children.
What consequences could this have?
- More children are being infected in this third wave. We are seeing plenty of entire families, with kids young and old, all with COVID.
- As the number of children with COVID-19 increases, the number of severe cases (although a very low proportion of the whole) will increase. This includes consequences such as the multisystem inflammatory syndrome and also “Long COVID.”
- More children will spread the disease, possibly even to vulnerable adults. This can result in tragic consequences. Many children are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and may not even know that they have COVID.
How can we minimize these consequences?
With schools re-opening, we have to be super careful.
- Encourage the basics: mask wearing, hand washing, physical distancing, ventilation.
- Keep your children home if they are ill- and test for COVID if possible. Headaches, blocked or runny noses and sneezes as well as “tummy bug” symptoms are part of the presentation of the Delta variant.
- For the next 2-4 weeks, whilst numbers will still be high in South Africa, discourage gatherings, especially big indoor gatherings. Let your kids hang around with as few friends as possible and in smaller groups, ideally outside.
- Adults can take a vital step in protecting their children (and themselves) by getting vaccinated. Remember that children in SA do not have this option yet- but adults have. Every single death in a child (or adult) is a tragedy in an essentially vaccine-modifiable disease.
Please be careful in the next few weeks, it’s an awful third wave. ICU’s are full and we can ill-afford more tragedy and sadness on an individual and national level.