WEAK IMMUNE SYSTEM

Why more babies are getting Covid-19

Seven children below 10 years have died, the Ministry of Health says.

In Summary

• Babies will struggle to breathe if they are infected because of their smaller airways.

• Paediatrician Prof Ruth Nduati told the Star children must be protected from Covid-19, even if those older than one year experience less severe symptoms. 

An infant getting a swab for coronavirus test at Beafra Medical Center on May 15, 2020
An infant getting a swab for coronavirus test at Beafra Medical Center on May 15, 2020
Image: FILE

At least 712 children below 10 years have been infected with coronavirus in Kenya since March, with seven of them dying, the Ministry of Health says. 

The ministry warns infants under one year are at a higher risk of severe illness because of their immature immune systems and smaller airways.

Such babies will struggle to breathe if they are infected with any respiratory virus.

 
 

"[There is] complacency by the community despite established community transmission," the ministry says in its latest status report. 

Paediatrician Prof Ruth Nduati told the Star all children must be protected from Covid-19 even though those above one year have less severe infection.

In total, 1,405 children and teens below 19 years have tested positive since March, according to the ministry's Monday status report. 

Around the world, children are the minority cases in most countries. 

Nduati said a lot of that data comes from China where most families have one child each.

"Bottomline is, people should avoid getting infected. They need to wear masks and social distance. Parents must also protect their children," she said. 

"Although they may have less severe infection, children can pass the infection to older people who may develop severe infection. Many of these people, even after surviving, are left with chronic problems like dementia and heart diseases," she told the Star. 

 
 

Prof Nduati said collecting clinical samples from babies for Covid-19 test with the nasopharyngeal swab is safe.

"When children can't feed we also put tubes down their throats, so it's safe," she said. 

Infected children manifest cold-like symptoms and most recover within one to two weeks, according to the World Health Organisation.

Their symptoms can include fever, running nose, cough, fatigue, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhoea.

By Monday, the total number of confirmed cases in Kenya was 17,535, according to MoH.

Separately, the National Hospital Insurance Fund said it will cater for coronavirus related costs in government hospitals.

Through a statement, CEO Peter Kamunyo said they shall support all Covid-19 positive members and their declared beneficiaries who get admitted to Ministry of Health designated facilities.

The facilities are Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Research Hospital and Mbagathi County Hospital.

Others are county designated facilities and any other facility as may be designated by the ministry.

"NHIF shall not be liable for bills incurred in non-MoH designated health facilities," Kamunyo said.

In March, Kenyan insurers agreed to continue covering the disease after consultations, but this has not been happening.

"Following engagement with the insurance companies, Commissioner of Insurance Godfrey Kiptum would like to assure the public that the insurers will continue to provide their services to policyholders affected or infected with the virus," the Insurance Regulatory Authority posted on Twitter.

Edited by Henry Makori