Hong Kong Expert Warns Of Significant Rise In Post-Covid Inflammatory Syndrome In Children

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Hong Kong could experience a significant rise in the number of children suffering from a serious inflammatory condition after Covid-19 recovery, especially if students’ vaccination rates remain low, a leading pediatrician has warned ahead of in-person classes resuming.

The warning came as Hong Kong recorded 613 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, the fourth straight day infections were below the 1,000 mark. The city also reported 20 more deaths.

Patrick Ip Pak-keung, president of the Hong Kong Paediatric Society, said cross-infection risks in schools were “very high” because the Omicron coronavirus variant was extremely transmissible via short-range airborne particles.
He warned parents of a higher chance of children suffering from multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) following Covid-19 recovery.

“The number of MIS-C cases reported in Hong Kong has significantly increased recently due to a rise in Covid-19 infections,” he said.

“Many MIS-C patients require treatment in intensive care units … Long-term health effects may also occur.”
The condition causes inflammation of the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs, among others, appearing three to four weeks following the end of coronavirus infection.

Ip agreed that campuses should still reopen for classes for the sake of students’ academic performance and mental health, urging parents to ensure their children were inoculated.

“Vaccination against Covid-19 is effective in reducing the chance of MIS-C by 90 percent. Most cases are preventable if children have been vaccinated,” Ip told a radio program.

According to the expert, 15 children in the city had suffered from MIS-C over the past two to three weeks. In the United States, more than 7,000 children had been diagnosed with MIS-C, with 66 dying, Ip added.

“Although [the fifth Covid-19 wave in Hong Kong] has been gradually subsiding, parents are putting children at risk as the vaccination rate among kindergarten pupils remains low at less than 50 percent,” he said, noting vaccination was also effective in preventing deaths and complications among children infected with Covid-19.

As of Sunday, 34.1 percent of children in Hong Kong aged between three and 11 had been inoculated with at least two vaccine doses. More than 60 percent of the age group had taken their first shot.

Ip said health experts and education authorities had organized talks to explain the need for vaccines to parents. He also urged schools to arrange outreach vaccination programs on campus.

Under the new policy to resume in-person classes on Tuesday, all students and teachers are required to take a daily rapid antigen test (RAT) for entry. Full-day lessons will only be allowed if 90 percent of a school’s student population or an individual class is fully inoculated with two jabs.

Ip backed the “absolutely effective” screening arrangements, encouraging parents to also test themselves regularly.

On the same radio program, Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai, an infectious disease expert from the University of Hong Kong, said he expected a small rebound in cases following the Easter holiday as more people went out. But he noted the risk was not high as many people had gained natural protection after recovery.

Hung said he believed the number of cases would continue to decline, falling to 100 infections daily, but admitted it might be hard to attain a zero-Covid approach as Omicron was highly transmissible.

“We do not need to be too worried if we have a high vaccination rate and enough infection control measures,” he said.
The city’s overall Covid-19 tally since the pandemic began stood at 1,198,438 with 9,159 fatalities.

Meanwhile, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department announced it would open 60 more “inclusive parks” for pets from Thursday, when social-distancing measures are set to be eased, bringing the total number of such facilities to more than 100.

About 20 of the venues are located on promenades or near harbourfront areas. Others are mainly situated in parks and rest gardens. The department said the aim of such facilities was to “promote exchanges and integration in the community”.

It urged dog owners to keep their pets on a leash in the parks and ensure the animals were kept under proper control.