Sunday, December 10, 2023

New symptoms found in COVID-infected children raise concerns in Hong Kong

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During the fifth wave of COVID-19, health authorities in Hong Kong have warned of new clinical symptoms such as hoarseness and inspiratory stridor (a indication of airway blockage) among youngsters infected with the virus.

According to local media, the newest development raises concerns for the city, which has reported over 7,000 COVID-19 instances for four consecutive days, as the new school year for elementary and secondary schools begins on September 1. According to China’s Global Times, Chuang Shuk-Kwan, director of the Communicable Diseases Division of the HKSAR Government’s Department of Health’s Center for Health Protection, discovered some infected children had developed croup, which indicates inflammation of the larynx, windpipe, and bronchial tubes.

According to Mike Kwan Yat-wah, consultant at Princess Margaret Hospital’s department of paediatrics and adolescent medicine, clinical symptoms among adolescents during the fifth wave caused by the Omicron variation differ from those reported in earlier waves.

“Its symptoms are hoarseness and inspiratory stridor. In severe cases it can produce acute obstruction of the respiratory tract and an absence of oxygen supply to an organ or a tissue,” he added.

Kwan further said, “This condition can also be caused by various infectious agents, such as parainfluenza virus. However, in the recent COVID pandemic, this condition was nearly all caused by the Omicron variant.”

According to Kwan, the possibility of prolonged COVID-19 symptoms, saying about 19 percent of children who have recovered from COVID-19 present with at least one of these symptoms in the outpatient follow-up at his hospital – Princess Margaret Hospital.

“The most common complaints were memory loss, cognitive deficits, insomnia, headaches, and discomfort,” he noted.

Notably, there are two confirmed instances in children who have been recently classed as “severe” and are being treated in Princess Margaret Hospital’s children’s ICU.

On Friday night, one of them, a 17-month-old child, had a fever and seizures and briefly stopped breathing. He contracted croup after being infected and had only recently received his first dose of vaccination. The SAR government’s expert consultants felt the boy’s ailment was caused by the COVID virus.

On August 22, another 10-year-old child developed a high fever and tested positive. According to the Global Times, he sought medical attention on Thursday for breathing problems.

According to Chuang Shuk-Kwan, infections with Omicron variants are still on the rise, with the proportion of new patients infected with BA.4 (or BA.5) increasing to 48.6 percent in Hong Kong, while BA.2.12.1 accounted for 7.6 percent.

Chuang projected that the number of confirmed cases among students and teachers will rise for the upcoming school year, and that daily tests would be required to avoid transmission on campus.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu stated on Saturday that current vaccination rates among old adults and children were inadequate, and that this population had a greater rate of serious sickness and mortality following COVID-19 infection.

Schools are permitted to hold full-day in-person sessions under existing Covid-19 regulations if all staff members and 90% of pupils have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccination.

However, Hong Kong has recorded over 7,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases for four straight days since the fifth outbreak began. Since the fifth wave, which peaked in March, the city has experienced a continuous increase in the number of daily illnesses.

On Sunday, Hong Kong reported 9,708 new Covid-19 cases, including 213 infections imported. In addition, the city reported ten more deaths.

According to Chuang Shuk-Kwan, 8,457 additional cases were confirmed on Saturday, with four deaths reported.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak began over two and a half years ago, in-person learning in Hong Kong schools has been constantly disrupted.

Hong Kong officials are currently debating whether to hold in-person lessons, and the city’s education chief has stated that if the number of daily Covid-19 infections hits 10,000, full-day in-person teaching may be suspended.

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