‘Omicron seven times deadlier than flu in children’

University of Hong Kong researchers say a new study indicates that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has resulted in seven times more child fatalities than flu.

They announced the finding after studying the cases of 1,147 young Covid patients who were admitted to hospitals in February, including four who died. One child suffered from a chronic illness while the rest were healthy.

Mike Kwan of the University of Hong Kong’s medical school said some of the children were quite ill, and that could be attributed to a lack of exposure to earlier strains of Covid, as well as the fact that many were unvaccinated. 

Kwan, a consultant of Princess Margaret Hospital’s Paediatric Infectious Disease Unit, said their research also found that Omicron has the ability to attack the central nervous system in young patients.

“The Omicron virus seems to have a more neural invasive effect. That is this virus can invade our central nervous system and lead to complications, for example acute necrotising encephalitis and also symptoms like febrile seizure,” he said.
 
“These complications actually lead to the increase in death rate of Omicron infections.”
 
The paediatrician said these complications were more prevalent in young children, as their immune system has yet to be fully developed.
 
Kwan said parents should call for emergency help if their children develop fever and a convulsion that lasts for a prolonged period of time.
 
“Make sure that they record the time of the start of convulsion so the paramedics will know how long the children actually convulsed, and most importantly observe the pattern of the convulsion. This will help the doctors to make the diagnosis,” he said.
 
The expert also urged parents as well as other members in the household to get vaccinated in order to protect toddlers below the age of three, who are currently not eligible for Covid jabs.

Official figures showed that a total of seven children – aged 11 or below – died in the fifth wave of Covid-19 infections.