Covid-19 uncommon in SA schoolkids, but don’t let your guard down

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Covid-19 uncommon in SA schoolkids, but don’t let your guard down

New NICD study gives exact reflection of how the virus is affecting the nation’s children

Journalist
Even though Covid-19 is uncommon in South African children, including those at school, things such as handwashing, wearing masks and sanitising are crucial.
keep your distance Even though Covid-19 is uncommon in South African children, including those at school, things such as handwashing, wearing masks and sanitising are crucial.
Image: Iavan Pijoos

A National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) report has found that Covid-19 is “uncommon” in South African children, including those at school, aged five to 18.

According to the report, published on Tuesday, data from other countries suggested that the clinical presentation of Covid-19 differed in children and that they had a lower risk of severe disease compared with adults.

In contrast, the NICD warned that the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as using masks, social distancing and handwashing or sanitising in schools, needed to be strengthened to prevent children acquiring SARS-CoV2 infections.

“The number of deaths in this population was small, but any severe illness in children in this age group is concerning nonetheless and steps to minimise Covid-19 transmission, such as physical distancing and use of masks, should be consistently applied where possible, even among children,” the report found.

By June 7, 52,991 laboratory-confirmed cases were notified through national laboratory-based surveillance in SA. 

Six percent (3,025) of the confirmed cases were children under the age of 18.

The majority of admissions up to week 23 were in the Western Cape, representing 63% of all admissions in children reported, the data showed.

Among individuals aged under 18, there was a relatively even split between males and females, with 51% female.

The median age of these cases was 11.4 years.

The cumulative incidence risk of laboratory-confirmed cases aged under 18 was 14.7 cases per 100,000, with the highest cumulative incidence risk reported among individuals aged 15 to 18, rising to 23.6 cases per 100,000. The lowest cumulative incidence risk reported was among those aged five to nine, with 10.8 cases per 100,000.

Up to June 7, 6,353 patients had been admitted to hospital with Covid-19. Of these, 230 (3.3%) were individuals aged under 18.

The majority of admissions up to week 23 were in the Western Cape, representing 63% of all admissions in children reported, the data showed. 

“Respiratory comorbidities were most frequently reported, with asthma being the most frequent, followed by current and past tuberculosis.”

Of the 230 children admitted with Covid-19, 16 (6.7%) were admitted to ICU and six (2.6%) were ventilated at some point during admission.

At analysis, 167 (72.6%) had been discharged, 56 (24.4%) were still in hospital, four (1.7%) had been transferred to other facilities and three (1.3%) had died during admission, the report said.

The overall median length of hospital stay was three days.

“The three cases who died were aged one, 15 and 16. They all had severe underlying medical conditions, including dilated cardiomyopathy, leukaemia, hypertension and diabetes mellitus.”

Statistics, released by the national department of health on Monday night, revealed that 10 South African children had died from the virus.

Three were under the age of three and seven under the age of 19.

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