With an R-value of over 10 across the world, the Omicron variant of Covid has come close to measles which is a highly contagious disease seen among children, AIIMS doctor Rakesh Lodha said.
In the first two waves of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, children were the least affected population, but now they are increasingly getting infected in the third wave, driven by the Omicron variant. Experts said more data is required from India to find out whether there is an increase in the rate of infection in India. In a seminar organised by AIIMS on managing children with Covid-19, Dr Rakesh Lodha, Head, Professor, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, AIIMS, Delhi, said there are many likely reasons why children are getting frequently affected — more contagious Omicron being the primary reason.
Apart from that, lowering of the guard, complete state of unlocking, mass gatherings, lack of adherence to distancing and mask etc have contributed to the vulnerability.
There has been no dramatic increase in the number of children getting infected, Dr Lodha said, adding that the absolute numbers have increased proportionately to the increase in the number of cases.
Children were so far somewhat protected from Covid as fewer children have comorbidities. Also, children respond to the virus in a better way. Omicron, however, has become like measles with an R-value of around 10 (global). “The Omicron is clearly more contagious and against the values of R nought, which kind of gives an idea about how contagious it is, how easily it can spread. Various groups have estimated it to be much higher than what was there for delta and for the original virus. It’s believed to be more than seven, some groups have estimated even to be close to 10 or more than 10. And in that scenario, it comes close to measles which is a highly contagious disease that we see children,” Dr Lodha said.
“There is also been a lot of concern about the severity of illness in children in this current wave with some reports from hospitals in the US claiming that they are seeing an increased number of children being admitted,” AIIMS, New Delhi, Director Dr Randeep Guleria said.