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‘Pediatric patients marginalized from Covid-19 response measures’
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2020.07.01 16:14
  • Updated 2020.07.01 16:14
  • comments 0

The nation’s Covid-19 response system is excessively centered on adult patients and lacks measures for children patients, an infectious disease expert said.

As of Tuesday, Korea had 12,800 Covid-19 patients, and 7 percent of them, or 901, are aged 19 or less. Among them, 193 are nine years old or younger.

Kim Ki-hwan, general affairs director of the Korean Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases (KSPID), said so on a YouTube show “Corona Fighters Live” on Friday, operated on a channel K-Health by The Korean Doctors’ Weekly. He is also a professor at the Pediatrics Department of Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital.

At the show, Kim criticized the adult-centered Covid-19 response system.

Limiting symptoms to only pneumonia to get Covid-19 testing for a suspected Covid-19 patient is one of the many examples that the current measures lacked attention to children patients, he noted.

“There were several criteria set in the initial stage of the Covid-19 response. Among them is setting pneumonia as the criteria for Covid-19 testing or quarantine,” Kim said.

Pediatric patients with Covid-19 mostly accompany fever and coughs, but prioritizing pneumonia symptoms could miss out on children with Covid-19.

Kim Ki-hwan, general affairs director of the Korean Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases (KSPID), criticized the health authorities for running the Covid-19 response system with a focus on adults only, appearing on a YouTube show “Corona Fighters Live” on Frida.

Research papers have demonstrated that pediatric Covid-19 patients have milder symptoms than adult patients, and many of them are asymptomatic.

As Covid-19 is designated as an infectious disease, physicians must isolate patients and treat them.

The latest treatment guidelines state that pediatric Covid-19 patients cannot enter a living and treatment center but get hospitalized in a quarantined ward along with their guardians, Kim pointed out.

“Most of the children patients do not have symptoms. Their coughs last for only one or two days. We need practical measures,” he said.

The health authorities did not reflect experts of pediatric infectious disease when discussing the Covid-19 response system, Kim went on to say. That was why KSPID made separate guidelines for the treatment of pediatric Covid-19 patients and provided them for the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Kim emphasized that the government should also pay more attention to nurturing experts in infectious diseases for pediatric patients in the wake of Covid-19.

According to KSPID, the nation has 86 specialists in pediatric infectious disease, and about 60 are practicing medicine. Most of them are located in the Seoul metropolitan area, making other regions short of pediatric infectious disease experts.

According to Kim, pediatric infectious disease specialists are available only 30 percent of state-designated medical institutions operating quarantined wards.

“They don’t have many intensive care units for children, so many pediatric patients have to borrow some of ICUs for adults. To run pediatric ICUs, hospitals need investment in facilities and workforce,” Kim said. However, pediatric ICUs do not make much profit, making it difficult for hospitals to invest in them.

Kim also commented on the relevance between Covid-19 and many cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and adolescents in the U.S. and Europe.

“It is still difficult to accurately explain the causal relationship between the two. The multisystem inflammatory syndrome is one of the existing symptoms, and Kawasaki disease is one of them,” he said.

Kawasaki disease frequently occurred in East Asia, but the multisystem inflammatory syndrome, drawing attention due to the relations to Covid-19, was more common in the U.S. and Europe, especially among black people, Kim explained.

“As far as I know, people are studying the genetic background of the disease,” he added.


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