In a University of Hong Kong team research project, it was found that children at or under the age of 11, who are infected with Omicron BA.2 subtype new mutant virus strain, their mortality rate is higher than those suffering from influenza or parainfluenza. It also indicates there might be signs of complications in the upper respiratory tract and nervous systems, such as laryngotracheobronchitis, which is also called croup, or an acute necrotizing encephalitis, which is far more severe than losing the sense of taste and smell during the second wave of the pandemic.
Kwan Yat-wah, Clinical Honorary Associate Professor at the Pediatric and Adolescent Department at the University of Hong Kong, pointed out that there has been an increased number of infected children admitted to the hospital recently. Kawn urged family members to seek professional help at the hospital immediately without delay or hesitation if they observe any sign of symptoms in their children.
During an interview with Radio and Television Hong Kong’s program Millenium on June 24, 2022, Dr Kwan stated that the team led by professor Lau Yu-lung, of the pediatric and adolescents department at the University of Hong Kong, had recently analyzed over 1000 children aged 11 or under, who had been hospitalized during the fifth wave of the pandemic, between February 5 to 29.
The team found that most of the cases containing Omicron BA.2 subtype new mutant virus strains display two severe complication symptoms in children, including nervous system complications and acute upper respiratory tract complications.
Among the cases, 1.8 percent or 21 children had to be treated in the intensive care unit, while 2 of them passed away from encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain.
According to Dr Kwan, the mortality rate of BA.2 new virus strains is 2.7 times and 4.7 times higher than influenza and parainfluenza respectively. As for cerebral complications, it is also 1.6 times and 1.9 times more than influenza and parainfluenza respectively.
For upper respiratory tract complications, acute necrotizing encephalitis, BA.2 cases are at double the rate of influenza, while the impact of Acute necrotizing encephalitis triggered by parainfluenza is similar.
Kawn further analyzed that during the first two waves of the pandemic, the side effects on the neuro systems were only loss of taste and smell. however, during the fifth wave of the pandemic, deadly complications started to appear, such as spasms, epilepsy, acute necrotizing encephalitis, and the like.
Hence Kwan emphasized that BA.2 not only attacks the respiratory system but also the central nervous system. Even after a patient is recovered, he or she might still suffer from sequelae, causing the condition of Long-Covid, memory, and cognition issues.
The professor also mentioned that the children who contracted BA.2 in other Asian regions, also suffer from encephalitis, spasms, and acute necrotizing encephalitis. Publications from overseas also concluded that the pandemic can cause serious complications in children; as their magnetic resonance imaging, that is MRIs show the impact the virus has on the brain structures.
Professor Kwan suggested children should follow the standards of good personal hygiene measures, such as wearing masks and washing hands thoroughly. Furthermore, as more children are being sent to the hospital due to infection, Kwan urged family members to be diligent in observing related symptoms or warning signs. If a child is displaying high-pitched wheezing or panting noises, which could be signs of having acute necrotizing encephalitis or having a high fever in addition to spasms for over 30 minutes, the child should be sent to the hospital immediately without delay. So the complications can be dealt with promptly by medical professionals. He also encourages the family to observe the patient for two to six months upon their recovery, for signs of pediatric systemic inflammation syndromes.