Health officials have predicted an increase in hospitalisation for children in the coming weeks, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant is expected to become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We are going to have an increase surge with the Omicron variant. We are going to see increased cases,” Senior Paediatric Emergency Medicine Specialist at the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) Dr Joanne Paul said.
Five children are currently in hospital. Three are in critical condition and according to Dr Paul, there will be an increase in children being hospitalised.
“We are going to see a three to five-fold increase in paediatric admissions to hospital,” Dr Paul said.
Four of the paediatric cases in the hospital are in the Arima General Hospital and one is being treated at the Caura Hospital.
“Those who in Arima are of course much more critical,” she said.
The cases include a two-year-old, an infant less than six-months-old, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old.
Dr Paul, while speaking at the Ministry of Health news conference yesterday, said the teenagers are not vaccinated and have comorbidities.
She said the range of age groups for paediatric cases are mainly zero to five years old or adolescent.
“They have shown lots fever so we’re having the fever fits (febrile seizure)…we will be seeing lots of sore throat,” she explained.
The Paediatric Emergency Medicine Specialist said since more emerging evidence suggests that the Omicron variant is affecting the upper respiratory tract they will see an upsurge in Croup (an infection of the upper airway which obstructs breathing and leads to a barking cough) and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C), according to trends seen in the United States and the United Kingdom.
“They usually cough almost like a seal-like barking,” she explained.
MIS-C in children is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed.
There have been 69 cases of MIS-C recorded so far in this country.
“The major risk factor for children is obesity in terms of seeing any effect with Omicron,” she added.
Dr Paul said aside from the cardiac element and the syndromes, obesity and sickle cell are the major factors with Omicron in terms of having severe manifestation in children to be hospitalised and being very sick.
“They saw signs of obesity as the main risk factor more so with children in the hospital,” she added.
Dr Paul recommended that with the expected increase of COVID-19 admissions to hospitals, parents of adolescents (ages 12 to 17 years old) get their children vaccinated as soon as possible, especially if they have any of these syndromes.
“We’re looking at kidney disease, sickle cell disease, cerebral palsy,” she said.
The doctor also suggested that parents get a COVID-19 pack at home to deal with the sore throat and dehydration.
“So you have your Ibuprofen, your Paracetamol or your Vitamin C, you also make sure you have your Gesol or whatever rehydration,” Dr Paul said.
She also suggested that parents have humidifiers and saline nose drops to help their children with congestion.
“Liaise with your family doctor…have their link there to make sure that you are well prepared,” Dr Paul advised.
However, Dr Paul said, the best way to protect the young population and the vulnerable groups is to get vaccinated.
Meanwhile, following the deaths of 171 fully vaccinated people from COVID-19, Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said they have not been assigning the vaccine types to these deaths as a denominator because of the disproportion of vaccines types administered across the country.
“There is a much larger proportion of one vaccine than the others in circulation the first place and that would generally be reflected proportionally in those that have passed on,” he explained.
Dr Hinds said the fully vaccinated people who died had severe comorbidities.
He also said the length of time from when the person was vaccinated and them being infected, also played a factor.
Dr Hinds said that is why taking the booster shot is important.