A year and a half after the Coronavirus pandemic wrecked our collective lives, our society has been grappling with fear and insecurity. As a result, we have seen misinformation spread like wildfire, and many resorting to bizarre and incorrect methods of dealing with the virus. With this column, which will be published every Sunday, we aim to address any health or vaccine-related question our readers might have about the coronavirus pandemic.
In this week’s column, Dr. Praveen Kumar, Professor of Pediatrics, Lady Hardinge Institute of Medical Science, Talks about ways to ensure the safety of children as they resume going to school.
Once schools open, what are the most important measures to control the spread of covid there?
Schools provide safe and supportive learning environments to students. It not only provides social and emotional development to the students but also employs people, and enables parents, guardians, and caregivers to work. However, it is equally important to put in place following measures in place to prevent COVID infections in students and their families when schools reopen:
All eligible family members of students, teachers, and school staff must get vaccinated to break any possible chain of transmission.
Masks should be worn by all individuals who are entering school premises.
Maintain safe physical distance between students within classrooms and school activities.
Adequate ventilation, handwashing, and respiratory etiquette are other important measures. Schools should monitor and reinforce these behaviours and provide adequate handwashing supplies. Teachers should teach and reinforce handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Remind everyone in the school to wash hands frequently and assist young children with handwashing.
If handwashing is not possible, use hand sanitizer (for teachers, staff, and older students who can safely use hand sanitizer). Hand sanitizers should be stored up, away, and out of sight of young children and should be used only with adult supervision for children under 6 years of age.
Written instructions should be sent to the parents for keeping children at home if they develop any of the COVID symptoms (fever, cough, loose motions, etc.) and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
Schools should also keep a close watch on the level of community transmission.
Is the delta variant impacting Children more adversely?
Delta variant spread more easily and quickly than other variants and caused more cases of COVID-19 in both adults and children. During second wave due to an increase in the number of cases, there was more strain on healthcare resources, more hospitalizations.
Is there an increase in infection in the second wave in children?
The second wave was largely due to the Delta variant. This variant is more communicable than previous variants. As this spreads more easily, this also caused infections in more children as compared to previous versions.
If one person in the family is positive, should everyone including asymptomatic children be screened?
As we all know, the risk of COVID infection increases when people come in contact with an infected person in a close environment, if one person in the family is positive, everyone in the family including asymptomatic children should be tested. Children usually are asymptomatic or have mild disease. Testing will help in isolating and breaking the chain of transmission to other people.
How to take care of a child if parents have tested positive?
If parents have tested positive, all family members including children should be tested. If the child is tested positive, he/she should be isolated and managed as per recommended guidelines. If tested negative, the child should be looked after by any uninfected close family members.
Can children be super-spreaders?
Since infected children may remain asymptomatic or have mild disease, there is a risk of infection transmission to other susceptible family members and other children. To prevent this, everyone should follow recommended COVID preventive measures.
What is the reinfection risk in children?
There are reports of reinfection in adults. Whether children have an equal risk of reinfection or not is not very clear at this point of time. Hence it is important that everyone including children wear masks, follow hand washing, and social distancing till the time community transmission stops.