How have our young ones been faring in the pandemic? Since the outbreak, more than 1,000 children in the 0-10 years age group have fallen prey to the virus. Just like their counterparts around the globe, our tots have proved a resilient lot but there is no room for complacency, say experts, warning that malnutrition and pre-existing illnesses may pose high risks.
According to data provided by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in the last three months, 1,311 minors in the 0-10 years age group have contracted infection, of which seven succumbed. However, children make up a small fraction of confirmed Covid-19 cases — less than two per cent of the number of cases in Mumbai and the rest of the state. There are 6,304 positive cases in the under-10 age group, with a mortality rate of 0.1%.
State Surveillance Officer Dr Pradeep Awate said complications related to Covid-19 in children are negligible and they bounce back quickly. The mortality rate for this age group too is very low, as compared to others. “Children do better than adults, as they have innate immunity (which acts as a physical barrier against viruses, bacteria, parasites and other foreign particles) and healthier lungs,” he said.
According to health experts, most of them were asymptomatic and those who developed symptoms mostly had fever, cough and, in rare instances, breathlessness. Some had convulsions, stomach problems and dehydration. “The verdict is largely that children are doing better than adults. Even in premature newborns and those with low-birth weight, there has been complete recovery,” said paediatrician Dr Surbhi Rathi, BYL Nair Hospital, which is currently, a dedicated Covid treatment facility.
However, it is challenging for doctors to identify the symptoms in minors, as nearly 85 per cent are asymptomatic, which means they can be spreaders of infection. “We still don’t know the exact symptoms in children, as only 10 per cent have symptoms like cough and fever. Moreover, there is no particular treatment for minors and very rarely, they can develop serious complications,” said Dr Bhupendra Awasthi, paediatrician, Surya Maternity Hospital. However, the hospital has seen children with multiple systemic inflammatory syndromes, similar to Kawasaki disease.
Child specialists say there is no magic shield but an agile immune system. “Children generally don’t have comorbidities and have the ability to recover faster,” said Dr Daksha Shah, deputy executive health officer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.