Emergency care doctor: Children vulnerable to omicron surge

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Joanne Paul –

CHILDREN are amongst the people who are most vulnerable to a potential omicron covid19 variant surge in Trinidad and Tobago.

There are currently five covid19 paediatric cases in the parallel health-care system, established in 2020 to deal with the virus. While there have been reports of the possible emergence of a new covid19 variant – deltacron – available data does not suggest it is a variant of concern such as the delta and omicron variants.

Emergency medical care specialist Dr Joanne Paul made these statements during the virtual health news conference on Monday

“We have five cases right now at hospital.”

Four are in the Arima General Hospital and the other is at the Caura Hospital. Three of the patients in Arima are one year, two years and less than six months old.

Paul said, “Those in Arima are a lot more critical than the one in Caura.The ones in Arima, three of them are critically ill, one is moderately ill – the one in Caura”

The other two patients are 14 and 15 years old respectivety.

Reiterating the importance of being vaccinated against covid19, Paul said, “We don’t want to see a one-year-old child in hospital on a ventilator. We really want to protect that age group.”

Supporting Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram and epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds’ assessments of early stages of local or community omicron spread in TT, Paul expected there would be a three- to five-fold increase in the hospitalisation of children with covid19. She placed those cases in two categories.

“You have the smaller category where they might come in with a fracture of their wrist or their hand and they also have covid by chance.

“The larger group are the ones who come in with pure (covid19) because it’s so transmissible, with omicron coming through.”

Fever fits, sore throats and croup (an infection of the upper airway, which obstructs breathing and causes a characteristic barking cough, similar to a sea lion), are some of the symptoms that children with covid19 will exhibit.

Paul said, “The major risk factor (to contract omicron) for children is obesity, in terms of seeing any effect with omicron. So we are looking at that in terms of the immune deficiencies also, like sickle cell (disease).”

Children’s age is another factor that determines the impact of omicron. Paul said children 12-18 will have comorbidities like sickle cell disease.

But she added, “The younger age group, the zero-five, the babies, the infants, the one-year-olds who will also present (symptoms)..they will present sick with fever and other things associated with that (omicron).”

She urged parents to ensure that their adolescent children (12-18) are vaccinated as soon as possible, talk to their children (regardless of age) about protecting themselves against covid19 and liaise with their doctors, should their children become ill.

Referring to the emergence of the deltacron (combination of delta and omicron) variant in a lab in Cyprus last week, Paul said the World Health Organization (WHO) has analysed this to be the result of a contaminant at this stage and not a variant of concern, like delta and omicron.

There are currently 69 cases of children with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) in TT. This is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Paul said this number could increase should there be an omicron surge.