Almost four weeks after the end of masks at school, should we be worried about seeing the contamination of children at such a high level? Last Friday, nearly 3,000 classes were still closed for Covid-19, According to figures from the Ministry of National Educationand 88,722 students had been infected over a week.
Two years after the start of the pandemic, we know more about the severity of Covid-19 on children. And in particular on the Omicron variant, today responsible for 100% of contamination.
Contaminations exploded in January
We have sometimes heard that the January Omicron wave was “carried” by children. “It was much more contagious than the previous ones, recognizes Francois Angoulvant, from the general pediatrics department of the Robert-Debré university hospital (AP-HP). But this is true for all age groups. I don’t believe he has a greater tropism for children than for adults. Omicron’s explosion starts during the Christmas school holidays, it’s clear on the curves. »
This graph from Covid Tracker shows that contaminations affect the over-6s more than the youngest, and after a rebound in March, the figures have started to drop in recent days. -CovidTracker
If the contaminations have started to rise again for two weeks, the latest graphs of CovidTracker give hope that cases are starting to drop.
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Hospitalizations rose in January, but then fell
It was from August 2021, therefore at a time when the Delta variant was in the majority, that we began to see an increase in hospitalizations of children for Covid-19. François Angoulvant then launched, with colleagues, a study to collect all the entries in the 41 pediatric intensive care units in the country. “Since August 30, 2021, 700 children have been admitted to pediatric sheaves with severe Covid,” he explains. A third had an acute Covid, a third a PIMS, and a third a “fortuitous Covid”, which means for example that a child hospitalized for a broken leg ends up with a positive test. “These are the patients hospitalized “with Covid” and not “for Covid”. “Of the acute Covid children in sheaves, 60% had comorbidities, and beyond 2 years, it was 80%”, assures the pediatrician.
Graph from Santé Publique France on admissions to intensive care for children since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. – Public Health France
And more generally, on the side of hospitalizations? The peak seems to have been reached in January. They have since declined, as shown in this graph of Public Health France. Even if there is a slight increase with the rebound in contamination for two weeks…
Chart showing hospitalizations of under-18s since the start of the pandemic. – Public Health France
Does this mean that Omicron was more dangerous? “No, answers the pediatrician. As there were more contaminations, there were more children hospitalized. Most children will have a very mildly symptomatic Covid. »
PIMS have fallen drastically since March
Beyond making an acute Covid, which almost exclusively concerns children with comorbidity (disability, respiratory disease, trisomy 21, sickle cell disease, etc.), the second risk facing Covid-19 is PIMS (for Pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome). ), these “pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndromes”. “The good news is that there were a lot less PIMS with Omicron than with the previous variants, around 10 times less, underlines the pediatrician. Before Omicron, the risk of doing a PIMS was around 1 in 4,000. With Omicron, the order of magnitude is rather 1 in 40,000. So yes, Omicron gives less severe forms. »
Here is the graph from Public Health France which reveals that from the beginning of March, the cases of Pims have decreased. – Public Health France
Same relief on the side of Public Health France, who published last Friday his last point concerning these serious pathologies. Since the start of the pandemic, 1,005 PIMS related to COVID-19 have been reported to the health authority by pediatricians. A child died in two years, and 39% of the young patients concerned had to go to intensive care. “In view of the very high incidence of cases during the 5th wave in children, and what was observed during the 4th wave, it was to be feared that the number of cases of PIMS would increase much higher than that which was observed. But a clear decrease in the incidence of PIMS has been observed since week 08 [début mars]. »
Other good news, still according to Santé Publique France: “despite an initial disease which can be severe, the data show that very few sequelae are observed during the follow-up of PIMS cases at six months, and it is not excluded that the clinical forms of PIMS linked to the Omicron variant appear to be less severe. » How to explain it? “No element allowed us to predict this, admits the pediatrician. This epidemic, we suffer it like the weather. What we do know, however, is that Omicron also causes fewer serious cases in adults, including when they are not vaccinated.