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SASKIA V. POPESCU, PHD, MPH, MA, CIC, is a hospital epidemiologist and infection preventionist. During her work as an infection preventionist, she performed surveillance for infectious diseases, preparedness, and Ebola-response practices. She holds a doctorate in biodefense from George Mason University where her research focuses on the role of infection prevention in facilitating global health security efforts. She is certified in infection control and has worked in both pediatric and adult acute care facilities.
Underlying conditions make young people more vulnerable to COVID-19, while the U.K. continues reopening despite the rise of the Delta variant.
Family Matters When It Comes to Reducing COVID Risk for Children
COVID-19 can and does infect children and they can even experience severe disease, but it’s at a lower rate than adults. The debates about pediatric COVID-19 cases have focused on the true burden and, ultimately, the ability to transmit, which then spills over into school re-openings, etc. A new study in JAMA Network Open though, delves into severe COVID-19 illness in children—highlighting that 1 in 4 had an underlying medical condition. “They found that 28.7% of all COVID-19 patients had at least 1 chronic condition, the most common of which were asthma (10.2%), neurodevelopmental disorders (3.9%), anxiety and fear-related conditions (3.2%),
depression (2.8%), and obesity (2.5%). Underlying illnesses were identified in 62.9% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The strongest risk factors for hospitalization included type 1 diabetes (adjusted risk ratio [aRR], 4.60) and obesity (aRR, 3.07), while type 1 diabetes (aRR, 2.38) and cardiac and circulatory congenital disorders (aRR, 1.72) were the strongest risks for severe illness.” Ultimately what this means is that we need to be doing more education with parents and families regarding the risk for severe disease in children with those pre-existing conditions.
Dispatch from the United Kingdom
This is a somewhat personal reflection as I sit in the United Kingdom (UK) for work right now—cases are rising, the potential full re-opening is up in the air, and yet life seems oddly back to normal? In an effort to grab one of my favorite meals post-quarantine in central London, I found myself utterly overwhelmed by the busy street scene. It seemed more active than pre-COVID days, as if everyone decided to converge in public all at once: to eat, drink, and be merry without masks. It’s an odd feeling. Not only because we’ve been living in a pandemic for 18 months, but also because the numbers are creeping up in the U.K. The Delta variant (B.1.617.2) is taking over, and the June 21 full re-opening date may not happen. The reason this is being discussed is simply because it’s something we’re all struggling with and seeing. A re-opening society with cases still occurring, inequitable vaccine distribution at home and abroad, variants, and the fatigue that is within us all. It’s likely COVID-19 will become endemic—potentially even seasonal. So, I ask, how do we manage COVID-19 in the context of human behavior and even more, our lives as infection preventionists? Now more than ever, we should probably take a moment to decide how we’ll handle this moving forward.
Too often I find that we spend a lot of time in infection prevention reading articles, journals, and updated public health guidance. In this particularly unique and challenging moment, we’re
struggling with expanding relaxations for vaccinated individuals, but the reality is that less than half the U.S. population is vaccinated. Ed Yong, a staff writer for the Atlantic, has been a source for truth during the pandemic—one who asks the hard questions and seeks to provide answers. In his latest piece, the topic of individualism, risk tolerance, and a realignment of protection is addressed. “America is especially prone to the allure of individualism. But that same temptation has swayed the entire public health field throughout its history. The debate about the CDC’s guidance is just the latest step in a centuries-old dance to define the very causes of disease.”