Nearly 20% of children suffer from long COVID after infection, says HK pediatrician, highlighting vaccination urgency
Published: Aug 17, 2022 09:45 PM
The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has increased access to vaccinations for the elderly and children. Photo: VCG

The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has increased access to vaccinations for the elderly and children. Photo: VCG

A pediatrician from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region claimed that nearly 20 percent of the children who he treated experienced long COVID following their infections, with some reporting worsened memory and cognitive functions, and also the transient loss of sight. These new discoveries could provide some hints for the study of post-COVID syndrome among children, health experts said.

Health experts reached by the Global Times on Wednesday said that long COVID, also known as post-COVID syndrome, has been consistently studied across countries, and it is generally agreed fatigue and shortness of breath are the most commonly seen post-COVID-19 conditions. Any new clinical discovery is worthy of attention, but before the final conclusion on what kind of post-COVID syndromes children may suffer after COVID-19 was made, the key is to get vaccinated as soon as possible to lower the chance of being infected, they noted. 

Mike Kwan Yat-wah, a consultant at the department of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Princess Margaret Hospital, was recently quoted by Hong Kong media as saying there have been nearly 60 cases of children who have recovered from COVID-19 suffering from multisystem inflammatory syndrome during the fifth wave of COVID-19 resurgence. More than half of them required intensive treatment.

On the long-term post-COVID-19 syndrome, Kwan said around 50 of the 288 children that were treated in his hospital - aged between eight and 13 - have demonstrated at least one symptom of long COVID, accounting for nearly 20 percentage of the total. 

Frequently seen symptoms are headache, cognitive dysfunction, insomnia and extreme fatigue and sporadic cases of the transient loss of sight and severe hair loss were found as well. As an example, he said that a child even suffered from the transient loss of sight, which can occur once or twice a day for about 10 to 30 seconds each time. 

These findings are different from the taste or smell problems that patients who recovered from previous waves of COVID-19 experienced, the pediatrician claimed.

Some health experts reached by the Global Times on Wednesday said that as Kwan's findings did not include the specific research process and data, it remains difficult to determine whether the findings are a general scenario for Omicron variants or individual cases.

Guangzhou-based medical expert Zhuang Shilihe told the Global Times on Wednesday that the proportion of long-term symptoms varies from person to person, and it's generally believed that post-COVID syndromes among children are usually mild. A high percentage of post-COVID syndromes is likely to occur among those who had severe symptoms when they contracted the virus. 

Zhuang said when studying long COVID, a control group of experiment is important, which would allow us to better analyze how this portion of people shows any changes, compared with the normal population.

Research released by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in June showed 1.8 percent of primary school pupils and 4.8 percent of secondary school pupils experienced long COVID following their most recent COVID-19 infections.

More secondary school age pupils who had a positive COVID-19 test since March 2020 experienced loss of smell or taste, cardiovascular symptoms or systemic symptoms than those who had not contracted the virus, the study showed. 

Also, research from the UK, released by the Office for National Statics, showed that about 1.8 million people living in private households in the UK were experiencing self-reported long COVID, which is 2.8 percent of the population. 

Kwan noted that vaccines are effective in preventing the serious complications and sequelae caused by COVID-19, urging children to receive COVID-19 shots as soon as possible. The children who experienced long COVID were unvaccinated when they contracted the virus during fifth wave in Hong Kong, according to Kwan.

When Kwan revealed his findings on Wednesday to local media, the city reported 5,757 new infections and the city's tally reached 1,432,837 cases.