Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) Dr. Fazıl Küçük Medicine Faculty academic staff member Assoc. Prof. Nilüfer Güzoğlu made a statement about the new COVID-19 infection in children. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Gözoğlu’s statement included the following:
Appearing first in China and then spreading all around the world, the new Coronavirus infection has caused drastic changes in our lives within a short amount of time. World Health Organization named the disease which is caused by the new type of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and declared a pandemic following the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak. Following the first COVID-19 case identified in our country, the effects of the outbreak has been felt more intensely and it continues to severely affect our lives. How do the children influenced by the virus? Do they become infected? The outcomes of the recent studies conducted in China, Europe and the USA provided updated information regarding the matter.
Do children catch the SARS-CoV-2 virus?
Children are a group that has been significantly affected by the pandemic period which caused interruption in education due to the isolation and quarantine and also, due to the disease cause by the virus. Even though the initial belief was that the virus does not affect the children, right now we know that children might also catch the virus. The recent studies showed that children, including the newborns, can catch the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Where do the children catch the virus?
The studies conducted in China indicates that the infection in children is generally originating from either the parents or the family members who have close contact with the children. On the other hand, the European study published in Lancet predicates the origin of the virus in children as the external or unknown factors, not caused by a source within the family. The difference in the results of the studies is probably an outcome of the different isolation methods which are applied differently in each country. At the moment, it holds a vital importance to adapt all the protective measures and methods in order to prevent the infection in our children.
How does the course of COVID-19 in children progress?
Most of the children have mild effects or asymptomatic symptoms of the disease. Therefore, they are “silent carriers”. Children might show no symptoms but can catch the virus and spread the virus to other individuals. For this reason, avoiding crowded places and applying social distancing as well as making children aware on hygiene related matters and measures such as handwashing, personal hygiene, preventing hand-mouth-eye contact. The most frequently observed symptoms in children are fever, coughing, runny/stuffy nose, difficulty in breathing, weakness, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea. Full recovery is generally made within 2-3 weeks after the symptoms begin.
Are there severe complications in child patients?
Even though the world of medicine firstly believed that there is not any severe complications experienced with children, the latest studies have shown otherwise. The number of children affected by COVID-19 is fewer than adults and elders but, severe breathing difficulties, need for oxygen, intensive care and mechanical ventilation can be rarely observed in children. Especially newborns and children with chronic health problems (asthma, heart diseases, cancer etc.) who has insufficient immune systems or, children who take medication that suppresses immune system are the group that are more likely to need intensive care. Another severe complication associated with coronavirus is the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) which is referred as a mysterious diseases by some of the media organs. Long term fever, swallowing and redness in lips, strawberry red tongue, swallowing in lymph nodes on the neck, swallowing in hands or feet, tendency to sleep are some of the symptoms of MIS-C and the disease can cause various organ involvements including the heart.
COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment in children
For the diagnosis, the same method used for adults is used in children: using throat and nose swaps for PCR test. Due to the lack of a COVID-10 vaccine or a present treatment method specific for coronavirus, children with severe cases of the virus are treated with the same method as adults in hospitals. Children who do not experience any of the symptoms do not need any kind of treatment.