401 children died from Covid-19 between March and May 2021

While Covid-19 cases are still relatively low among children, they were not completely spared as 401 died between March and May.
While Covid-19 cases are still relatively low among children, they were not completely spared as 401 died between March and May.
Image: Esa Alexander

Hundreds of children died from illnesses related to Covid-19 in SA between March and May 2021.

This was according to data released by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).

The NICD said there were 9,918 hospital admissions associated with Covid-19 among individuals aged 19 years and younger during the period. In-hospital data was available for 9,443 of these patients.

Of the 9,443 patients, 401 died in hospital.

“Among the deaths, 146 (36.4%) were adolescents aged 15 to 19 years and 125 (31.2%) were aged under one year,” the institute said, 

Many of the fatalities occurred in children who had underlying conditions. HIV infection, diabetes mellitus, malignancy and heart disease were the most frequently reported, while there were also cases of asthma and chronic pulmonary disease.

“Children with underlying conditions were over-represented among those who died, suggesting a higher risk of mortality among children with underlying medical conditions,” the NICD said.

IN NUMBERS

36.4% of deaths in the under-19 age group were among adolescents aged 15 to 19 and 31.2% were aged
under one year

Among 245 (61.1%) in-hospital deaths with available data on underlying conditions, 60.4% reported underlying conditions

Unfortunately, indications or reasons for admission were mostly not provided. This made it hard to determine whether the initial hospital admission was due to Covid-19 , for isolation purposes or other diseases.

Of the 9,443 children admitted, they spent an average of four days in hospital.

Around 619 had been admitted into intensive care units and 221 had been placed on ventilators.

It was possible more children could have contracted the coronavirus. The NICD said there were concerns about possible limited testing in children leading to cases being missed.

From March to May, infections were highest among individuals aged 15 to 19 years. The NICD said this was when cluster outbreaks were reported.

While the NICD was confident about its figures, it stressed data collected from patients coming in for tests was not entirely complete. Around 15,000 of the more than 1.5-million people who had been tested at the time had excluded their ages on the form, and about 3,430 people omitted their gender .

The data was collected from public and private laboratories and an online hospital surveillance system that covers 647 private and public hospitals in the country.

“Reassuringly, the data shows peaks in cases in the first and second wave did not appear to be related to the timing of the opening of schools, and cases remained low when schools were open,” said the NICD.

“In conclusion, children and adolescents remain substantially less likely to be diagnosed or hospitalised with Covid-19 compared to adults,” the institute said.

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