MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The recent increase in coronavirus infections in the Philippines is resulting in more children being admitted to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), which is treating six paediatric patients for Covid-19, three of them in critical condition, according to its spokesman Jonas del Rosario.
Speaking at a briefing on Saturday (Aug 7), Mr del Rosario said that of the three critical cases, two had comorbidities. The third had none but developed multisystemic inflammatory syndrome in childhood (MIS-C), a complication of Covid-19 infection characterised by the swelling of some of the body's organs.
Two of the six children had moderate symptoms and another was a mild case on the road to recovery, Mr del Rosario said.
He said the children were aged 7 days old to 15 years.
The Philippine Genome Centre will determine what variant of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, had afflicted the children, Mr del Rosario said.
MIS-C is a rare inflammatory condition among children with Covid-19, appearing among individuals 19 years old and below who experience fever for more than three days, according to the World Health Organisation.
Problems may occur in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal organs.
Children with MIS-C experience fever and other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloodshot eyes, chest tightness or pain, diarrhoea, fatigue, headache, low blood pressure, neck pain, rash and vomiting.
Doubled in two weeks
According to Mr del Rosario, the comorbidities of the young patients, such as epilepsy and heart and kidney ailments, make their treatment complicated.
"Sometimes, it is harder to care for them when they get Covid-19. Usually, children who have Covid-19 get pneumonia, and sometimes they have to be given ventilatory support, they are intubated to help their breathing," he said at the briefing.
In an earlier interview with ABS-CBN's Teleradyo, Mr del Rosario said there had been an increase in the admissions to PGH's eight-bed paediatric Covid-19 ward.
The hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) for children with Covid-19 usually admits three or four patients, but the number has doubled over the past two weeks with "more complicated cases", he said.
What is different now is that the young patients are sicker, Mr del Rosario said.
"We also noticed that their cases were a bit more complicated. Some of them also had underlying diseases that were complex," he said.
With the presence of the very transmissible and contagious Delta variant and the high viral load that people infected with it carry, "it is not surprising to note" that even children could get a severe form of Covid-19, Mr del Rosario said.
The adults caring for them should continue to take precautions against infection and get vaccinated as they are the ones likely to infect children, he said.
In case of a new surge
Mr del Rosario said that with the rising number of Covid-19 cases, PGH had increased the number of its ICU beds for critical patients from 20 to 40 for adults and to eight for children in makeshift ICU wards.
"And even with that, it's hard to accommodate new admissions or other patients who want to transfer to PGH, since we are the referral centre," he said.
There were 169 Covid-19 patients who had been admitted to PGH as at Friday night, Mr del Rosario said.
"This is the highest number for the last two months. It represents 75 percent occupancy of 225 beds dedicated to Covid-19 patients in the hospital," he said.
In case of another surge, they may be forced to close non-Covid-19 wards or reduce their bed capacity so that there will be more nurses and doctors to handle Covid-19 patients.
Mr del Rosario said 86 per cent of patients admitted to PGH were unvaccinated, according to a survey by the hospital last Tuesday.
Another 11 percent had only received the first of two doses, and only the remaining 3 per cent were fully vaccinated.
He said 3,546, or 80 per cent of the 4,413 healthcare workers of PGH, had been vaccinated but at least 92 still got infected - 26 in May, 28 in June, and 38 last month.
"What is good news is that none of our fully vaccinated healthcare workers became severely or critically ill. Almost all of them were mild or asymptomatic. A few were moderate, but all of them recovered," he reported.
This supports the assertions of health experts that Covid-19 vaccines help prevent severe infection and death.
The Department of Health has repeatedly said that all vaccines used in the Philippines offer this kind of protection.
The country has been using shots produced by Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Gamaleya (Sputnik V), and Johnson & Johnson in its mass immunisation drive.
About 10 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 since the government rolled out its mass immunisation drive in March.
It is aiming to vaccinate 50 million to 70 million Filipinos by the end of the year.