Covid-19 in Children of Africa
This pandemic has several facets: a Family, Community, Political, and Medical facet. This is solely about family facets and some pertinent medical facets for families of African origin.
Based on 2135 children studied in China during the initial Wuhan crisis, 9 out of 10 children will have mild symptoms of fever, fatigue, vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea. Pneumonia heralds increasing severity and should be observed closely in children. In Wuhan, only 1 in 20 children had severe symptoms such as pneumonia. It is important to note the symptoms were almost identical to Malaria in children. The blood count was quite different however with evidence of much inflammation ( C-Reactive Protein elevation, high lymphocyte count etc). Total white blood cell counts tended to be normal or low. Chest X-rays demonstrated marked changes in severe cases.
As with adults, children with chronic illness or conditions tend to fare worse should they contract the Covid -19 virus. A major concern in Africa is Sickle Cell Anemia. Africa is home to 80 percent of all Sickle cell Anemia cases and within the continent 59% of all are found in the Democratic Republic du Congo and Nigeria. Other illnesses that can exacerbate Covid 19 illness include: Heart, Liver or Kidney disease: Diabetes, and Obesity (with a BMR above 40): Chronic lung disease and states of Immunocompromise. Symptomatic medical treatment for 2-4 weeks is usually adequate. Many parents however are worried and wanting information on Prevention and Treatment modalities available in Ghana and the rest of Africa.
Prevention in children:
Children should be placed on a hand washing regimen: a minimum number of times per i inversely proportionate to their age.
They should avoid any child or person coughing/sneezing
High touch surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected several times daily. These include the following:
Tables Chairs Door knobs Light switches Remote control switches Handles Desks Toilets Sinks Toys Bicycles Balls etc.
Launder following items frequently:
Plush Toys Day and Night clothing
Quarantine and Lockdown in Children:
Be sensitive to effects of using the following 5 tips.
- Limit exposure Media and TV Covid-19 coverage
- Insist on daily routines
- Allow some time for input /agreement on assignments and entertainment
- Maintain connections with family and friends via Face Time regularly
- Try fun classes online e.g. Karate
Onset of severe anxiety or habits such as bedwetting do require a Pediatrician’s assistance.
JM Tuakli, MD MPH April 2020