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October 27, 2020

Despite low mortality rate, children must follow SOPs as they can transfer Covid-19


October 27, 2020

Among a total of 11,035 children of less than 10 years who have so far contracted Covid-19 in Pakistan since the first case of the contagious disease was reported in the country on February 26 this year, only 10 died of the viral disease, which constitutes the mortality rate of 0.09 per cent for children under 10 years.

Similarly, according to data of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) Islamabad, the Covid-19 mortality rate in the age bracket of 10-20 years is also low in the country as of the 24,755 people who have been infected so far within the age group, 25 lost their lives.

Therefore, the total number of people under 20 years who died of Covid-19 in Pakistan comes to 35, which is quite low in comparison to the total 6,740 deaths due to the novel coronavirus in the country.

However, this does not mean that minors and teenagers may be exempted from following the standard operating procedures (SOPs), as despite not being at high risk themselves, they can be a risk for others as they can transfer the virus to them.

“Although only 0.3 per cent of children of less than 10 years of age contracted the coronavirus infection in Pakistan while mortality among them also remained negligible but they can be a good carrier and infect their parents and grandparents. Instead of sending them to schools where they cannot follow the SOPs, they should be taught at homes by their parents as they can be silent carriers of the infectious disease,” Prof Dr Jamil Akhtar, a pediatrician and office-bearer of the Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA), said on Monday.

Experts believe that the symptoms of Covid-19 in children completely differ from adults and those who contracted the coronavirus infection were found to have symptoms varying from those similar to influenza to diarrhoea and vomiting, as well as those of Kawasaki disease.

Talking to a group of newsmen in Karachi, Dr Akhtar said although very few children had contracted Covid-19 in Pakistan as per official record, it was also a fact that very few children were screened for the coronavirus infection as the symptoms of Covid-19 among them completely differed from those in their parents or adults.

“Actually, very few children have been screened so far for Covid-19 in Pakistan, so the ratio of Covid-positive children is very less compared to adults. When a couple test positive for the coronavirus infection, it is generally presumed that children would have remained safe from the infection. As most of the children hardly show any classic symptoms of Covid-19, they have not been tested as aggressively as adults,” Dr Akhtar remarked.

He added that there was an urgent need to initiate research to determine the effects of Covid-19 in children and teenagers in Pakistan.

To a query why children were being spared by the virus compared to adults all over the world, especially countries like Pakistan where nutritional status is quite weak compared to the rest of the world, Dr Akhtar maintained that there were still many mysteries about the novel coronavirus that needed to be solved.

He said it was important to conduct studies as this virus was going to remain in the world for quite some time even if its vaccines were invented.

He claimed that children carry the novel coronavirus asymptomatically like many adult asymptomatic patients, which was evident from the deaths of several pediatricians and child-specialists, who had likely contracted the disease from their little patients.

Advising the parents to switch to homeschooling for children of primary classes until the pandemic was over or an effective vaccine was available, the pediatrician said the children could bring the virus to their homes and infect their parents and grandparents.

“Covid-19 cases have started rising in Pakistan and it is feared that we could have a second wave in the coming winter season. We have already stopped following SOPs while our children are free to mingle in small and crowded classrooms of public and private schools. This can lead to serious repercussions for our elderly population,” Dr Akhtar said as he urged the parents to prevent the children from contracting the infectious disease to stay safe themselves.