The new variant of SARS-CoV-2, which was first identified in the U.K, is said to be up to 70% more transmissible than the previous strains. This variant, known as B.1.1.7 variant, has several mutations that allow it to penetrate the cells more easily, leading to a higher rate of infection in adults and children.
Professor Wendy Barclay, Head of Department of Infectious Disease and member of NERVTAG, believes that caution should be exercised when looking at the impact of the new variant on children. But exactly what impact will the new strain of Covid-19 have on our kids?
Is the new form of the virus a greater threat to children’s health?
“Let’s be clear. We’re not saying that this is a virus that specifically attacks children or is any more specific in its ability to infect children. But we know that SARS-CoV-2, as it emerged, was not as efficient at infecting children as it was in adults. There are many hypotheses [as to why], but one is the expression of the ACE2 receptor that could be different in children. So if the new variant is having an easier time of finding and entering the cells, then that would put children on a more level playing field, if you like.”
The good news is that despite higher transmissibility, there is no evidence yet that the new form of the virus is a greater threat to children’s health.
Most children with COVID-19 infection remain asymptomatic (experiencing no symptoms) or develop mild symptoms whilst still spreading the virus.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 in children:
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 in children are fever and cough, but they can also present with nasal congestion or runny nose, sore throat, difficulty in breathing, loss of taste or smell, diarrhea and vomiting, tiredness, headache, body aches and/or poor appetite or poor feeding, especially in babies under 1-year-old.
Babies under 1-year-old and children with certain underlying conditions such as may be more likely to experience a severe illness from COVID-19. Therefore, Parents should be more vigilant to seek medical advice, should their children develop any of the above symptoms.
What can you do to protect your children and the rest of the household from the new strain of coronavirus?
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and encourage the children and others in the household to do the same
- Follow government advice on wearing facial masks and social distancing when out for grocery shopping or any other reasons
- Monitor your child for COVID-19 symptoms
- During the lockdown, Keep your child home and call their doctor for advice and assessment if your child gets sick
- Review your child’s school (or other childcare facilities) policies related to when a child who has been sick can return
Article by Dr Maryam Behnam, MD, MRCGP, PGClinDermDip, BLSM