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Omicron, flu put Turkey’s child population at risk

Omicron, flu put Turkey’s child population at risk

Children, along with elderly people and those with chronic illnesses, are now among the most vulnerable groups amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Turkey’s Health Ministry says elderly and unvaccinated people constitute the majority of COVID-19 patients but cases among children are also climbing according to experts. The fact that the omicron variant share similar symptoms with influenza, also on the rise, poses challenges for health care workers.

Professor Ergin Çiftçi, who heads the Department of Children’s Infectious Diseases at the faculty of Medicine at Ankara University, said they are seeing more and more children infected with the omicron variant and hospitalized. Çiftçi, however, reassuringly stated that many hospitalized children already have other chronic illnesses, whereas most children recover after mild symptoms.

Still, omicron is not something to downplay for Turkey, especially after the number of cases broke new records this month and still fluctuates around 70,000 daily.

“It was only recently that our COVID-19 ward here at the hospital was emptied after patients recovered, but with omicron, we see a surge in patients, especially children,” Çiftçi said.

“Children have milder cases usually but for those with liver, heart, kidney, bone marrow transplant, those with immunity problems and chronic heart diseases mostly require hospitalization,” Çiftçi said, although he added that the cases were still milder compared to the delta variant.

Though it is rare, children are occasionally subjected to the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) after they recover from COVID-19. Çiftçi warned about the syndrome’s symptoms, like skin rash and bloodshot eyes.

“If not treated in time, MIS-C can be fatal,” he warned, urging families to monitor their children against those symptoms within one month of recovery or later.

He also called upon parents to have their children at the age of 12 and above vaccinated in time and keep them away from crowded environments, especially during the midterm break, which will start on Friday. He noted that some countries started administering vaccines to children below the age of 12 and Turkey should pursue the same approach. Currently, only children between the ages of 12 and 15 are eligible for vaccines if they have chronic diseases.

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