Parents have been asked to ensure young people strictly observe Covid-19 containment measures, with research indicating faster spread of the Delta variant even among children.
A study published by scientists from the Imperial College of London that is yet to be peer-reviewed says the Delta variant affects children more than the Alpha and Beta variants.
The researchers observed there was a fivefold increase in Covid-19 cases among children aged between five and 12 years.
“This suggests a more direct link between infections and hospitalisations among this younger group, with infections occurring predominantly among participants who were unvaccinated or did not provide a vaccination history,” the researchers explained.
The study links a lapse in adherence to containment measures to higher infections among children.
Covid in schools
“The observed patterns may reflect increased social interactions among children and young adults as schools remain open and lockdown eases, as well as high vaccine uptake among older people,” said the study.
In Kenya, Muruku Secondary School in Laikipia County recorded 99 new Covid-19 cases on July 13, 2021, the highest number of reported cases this year from a school.
Infectious Disease Paediatrician Anne-Marie Macharia said although children do not exhibit very severe manifestations of Covid-19, they should still adhere to containment measures because they are potential spreaders of the disease.
She added that very few cases of the Delta variant had made children to be very sick in Kenya.
“The Delta variant has become more common and has coincided with the school holidays. I can’t say we have experience in terms of the Delta variant being responsible for ill symptoms,” she told the Nation yesterday.
“Inasmuch as children can still test positive for Covid-19, most of them end up being asymptomatic and may exhibit mild symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting. The danger sets in when they spread the disease to older adults who may have pre-existing conditions,” explained Dr Macharia.
Dr Macharia noted that children who get very sick from Covid-19 are those that have comorbidities such as heart disease, cerebral palsy, chronic illnesses, severe pneumonia, cancer and malnourishment.
“Studies have also shown that a certain syndrome called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which tends to manifest in slightly older children, can drive severe manifestation of the disease,” she explained.
Dr Macharia told the Nation that other risk factors for young adults include obesity, asthma, chronic lung disease and heart disease.
She clarified that while children may have mild symptoms, they are capable of transmitting the virus to adults.
“Within a school environment, children need to observe the same precautions as everybody else. Masking, spending time outdoors if possible, ventilation and hand sanitisation should not be overlooked,” she advised.
“The most important thing they should do is to protect their respiratory system. This can be achieved by wearing masks,” she added.
Dr Macharia cautioned that with scanty data on how far the Delta variant has spread in the country, which would have painted a clear picture of the impact of the disease on various groups, all children need to be careful.
“I really try to tell people not to panic. You see, whether it is Delta or whatever variant, prevention measures remain the same and adults should remind their children to take care,” she said.