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COVID-hit kids are a growing concern at PGH

/ 05:30 AM August 08, 2021
pgh hospital

Philippine General Hospital (PGH). Image from the PGH Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — The recent increase in coronavirus infections in the country is resulting in more children being admitted to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), which is treating six pediatric patients for COVID-19, three of them in critical condition, according to its spokesperson Jonas del Rosario.

Speaking at Saturday’s Laging Handa briefing, Del Rosario said that of the three critical cases, two had comorbidities. The third had none but developed multisystemic inflammatory syndrome in childhood (MIS-C), a complication of COVID-19 infection characterized by the swelling of some of the body’s organs.

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Two of the six children had moderate symptoms and another was a mild case on the road to recovery, Del Rosario said.

He said the children were aged 7 days old to 15 years.

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The Philippine Genome Center will determine what variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, had afflicted the children, Del Rosario said.

MIS-C is a rare inflammatory condition among children with COVID-19, appearing among individuals 19 years old and below who experience fever for more than three days, according to the World Health Organization.

Problems may occur in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal organs.

Children with MIS-C experience fever and other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloodshot eyes, chest tightness or pain, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, low blood pressure, neck pain, rash and vomiting.

Doubled in 2 weeks

According to Del Rosario, the comorbidities of the young patients, such as epilepsy and heart and kidney ailments, make their treatment complicated.

“Sometimes, it is harder to care for them when they get COVID. Usually, children who have COVID get pneumonia, and sometimes they have to be given ventilatory support, they are intubated to help their breathing,” he said at the Laging Handa briefing.

In an earlier interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, Del Rosario said there had been an increase in the PGH’s admissions to its eight-bed pediatric COVID ward.

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The hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) for children with COVID-19 usually admits three or four patients, but the number has doubled over the last two weeks with “more complicated cases,” he said.

According to him, the increase in the number of patients in the COVID-19 ward for children reflected the surge in cases because the same thing happened in March.

What is different now is that the young patients are sicker, Del Rosario said.

“We also noticed that their cases were a bit more complicated. Some of them also had underlying diseases that were complex,” he said.

Del Rosario said children were generally at lower risk of getting COVID-19 but were not immune to it.

“We didn’t really want to sound any panic. The message we want to tell the public is children also get COVID,” he said.

With the presence of the very transmissible and contagious Delta variant and the high viral load that people infected with it carry, “it is not surprising to note” that even children could get a severe form of COVID-19, Del Rosario said.

The adults caring for them should continue to take precautions against infection and get vaccinated as they are the ones likely to infect children, he said.

In case of a new surge

Del Rosario said that with the rising number of COVID-19 cases, PGH had increased the number of its ICU beds for critical patients from 20 to 40 for adults and eight for children in makeshift ICU wards.

“And even with that, it’s hard to accommodate new admissions or other patients who want to transfer to PGH, since we are the referral center,” he said in the Teleradyo interview.

There were 169 COVID-19 patients who had been admitted to PGH as of Friday night, Del Rosario said.

“This is the highest number for the last two months. It represents 75 percent occupancy of 225 beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients in the hospital,” he said.

In case of another surge, they may be forced to close non-COVID-19 wards or reduce their bed capacity so that there will be more nurses and doctors to handle COVID-19 patients, Del Rosario said.

He said this was what happened during the surge in March when COVID-19 admissions in PGH hit 220 and 260 of their healthcare workers were infected.

Del Rosario said 86 percent of patients admitted to PGH were unvaccinated, according to a survey by the hospital on Aug. 3.

Another 11 percent had only received the first of two doses, and only the remaining 3 percent were fully vaccinated.

He said 3,546, or 80 percent of the 4,413 healthcare workers of PGH, had been vaccinated but at least 92 still got infected—26 in May, 28 in June, and 38 in July.

“What is good news is that none of our fully vaccinated healthcare workers became severe or critically ill. Almost all of them were mild or asymptomatic. A few were moderate, but all of them recovered,” he reported at the Laging Handa briefing.

This supports the assertions of health experts that COVID-19 vaccines help prevent severe infection and death.

The Department of Health (DOH) has repeatedly said that all vaccines used in the Philippines offer this kind of protection.

The country has been using shots produced by Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Gamaleya, and Johnson & Johnson in its mass immunization drive.

About 10 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 since the government rolled out its mass immunization drive in March.

It is aiming to vaccinate 50 million to 70 million Filipinos by the end of the year.

More than 11,101 new cases

Also on Saturday, the DOH reported 11,021 new COVID-19 cases, topping the 11,101 logged on April 17 during the surge.

The number raised the national case count to 1,649,341.

The health department said 9,194 patients had recovered, increasing the number of survivors of the severe respiratory disease to 1,544,443. The 162 deaths raised the total fatalities to 28,835.

The deaths and recoveries left 76,063 active cases. Of this number, 93 percent have mild symptoms, 3 percent are asymptomatic, 1.8 percent severe, 1.19 percent moderate and 1 percent critical.

—WITH REPORTS FROM MARIEJO S. RAMOS, PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU AND INQUIRER RESEARCH
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TAGS: children with COVID-19, PGH
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