The news of the death of a baby in Chicago and an infant in New York from coronavirus complications have caused alarm and stood out among the wave of deaths caused by COVID-19.
At the beginning of the crisis - when the disease arose in Wuhan, China, last December - it was thought that only the elderly, especially people over 60 years old, were the most vulnerable to the novel virus and that not children, for some reason they did not get sick.
Now we know of multiple cases in various countries where children up to one year of age have succumbed to the complications of this respiratory illness. Here the Spanish pediatrician L. Nelson Sanchez-Pinto, who currently works in the Intensive Care Unit at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, talks to us about the subject and why we should be alert to the symptoms if they reach present.
Why, among so many deaths caused by the virus worldwide, do the cases of children who have become ill with COVID-19 stand out more?
Keep in mind that the risk for children in general is much lower than for adults. Obviously, all lives are important and the fact that two children have died so far [in the United States] is a tragedy, but we must look at it from a global point of view. It has nothing to do with the thousands of deaths in adults, we are talking about more than 2,000 deaths in the United States already. The dimensions of the problem are different. The important thing is that the more that 0.5 percent to one percent of children who are infected become critically ill and put on a ventilator or need intensive care therapy. Without knowing very well how many children there are who are infected but have no symptoms. We believe that there are more children infected without symptoms than adults infected without symptoms.
How many cases of infected children are there in the country?
There is currently a registry of [pediatric] intensive care units (ICUs) in the United States in which 140 ICUS send the number of patients we have and of those how many patients have OVID-19. And at this moment , 41 cases have been reported in those 140 units with a death [reported] in that registry. In the case of the Chicago boy … it is not uncommon that he had a bacterial infection, pneumonia, it is possible that he had been infected but COVID-19 was not the direct cause of his death. In [the case] of the New York boy it does seem that he had a chronic illness and that the virus was what precipitated his critical balance and possibly was his cause of death.
Dr. L. Nelson Sanchez-Pinto was born in the Canary Islands and studied in Barcelona. He has been in the United States for 12 years and is currently affiliated with Northwestern University. Since 2017 he works in the intensive care unit of the pediatric ward in the Intensive Care Unit of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago:
Courtesy: Lurie Children's
What to do if a parent suspects that one of their children has coronavirus?
If you do not have severe symptoms, it is best to stay home and during the quarantine let the virus run its course, like any other cold. Like any flu you can give a child. At home, taking care of it, limiting contact with family members and avoiding transmission to others.
At what point should we take a child to the doctor or hospital?
If you see that it is difficult for you to breathe, if you have trouble drinking liquids or eating. especially the little ones. The first thing you see is is fast and labored breathing, they are also not interested in eating. If they don't pee they don't go to the bathroom. Those kinds of things are what we see in respiratory diseases. The same as pneumonia … bronchiolitis are the most common respiratory diseases in infancy and childhood. The number one reason children come to hospitals is because of that. High fever does not look good … the doctor may suggest that the child go to the emergency room.
In your years of experience with these types of cases, especially that you are interested in lung and respiratory care … Is coronavirus the worst respiratory disease you have ever faced?
Of course, seeing what is happening with adult patients is without a doubt the worst. At the level of what we normally see in children it is on par with other serious virus infections that we have seen in other infections that we see in other seasons. Like severe flu, the Respiratory Syndrome Virus (RSD) … Those can be severe in children. Now … there are a lot of people out there saying that the coronavirus is nothing different than the flu. That is not true. The flu does not cause this degree of severity in adults, it does not cause this severity in adolescents. Is not the same. In children it is serious, but it is not the most serious, no more serious than diseases we have seen in the past. Before pediatrics I worked in adult emergencies in rural areas of the Canary Islands and never saw anything like this. It is another dimension, with which it is clear that yes: it is one of the worst things we have seen.
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