The wave of Strep A infection demonstrates, if it were needed, the anxiety that parents feel about their children’s health. The health service is being inundated with worried parents eager to ensure their child’s illness is not more serious than it appears and seeking further information about the signs and symptoms of what is thankfully still a relatively rare disease.
This is not new – for years paediatricians have been reporting the increasing pressure from anxious parents, no longer with access to more experienced older relatives as the extended family lives further apart, often bypassing their GP and bringing children straight to A and E. What is very striking however is the stark contrast in parents’ approach to Covid-19, classed as a level 3 pathogen (Ebola is level 4), where more worries appear to be expressed about the safety of the vaccine or relatively short periods away from school, rather than a novel viral illness.
New evidence in Covid-19?
Of course, the consistent message to parents has been that Covid in children is ‘mild’, learn to ‘live with it’. UK protective measures have been short lived and are now non-existent. But how could anyone know the long-term implications of a virus never seen by the world before? And why wouldn’t we expect this virus to act like many other viruses and for more impactful effects to only emerge weeks, months, or years later?
Long Covid began to be experienced by adults and children early in the pandemic who noticed that symptoms such as pneumonia, sores and others, were not getting better with time. It’s now widely recognised as being symptoms that remain for four weeks or longer after infection, and which can appear after some time, even after an asymptomatic infection. Over two million UK adults and children report living with long Covid.
In recent months, more and more evidence has been peer reviewed and published in world-leading scientific journals showing long-term damage to the immune system from Covid infection, with each infection increasing that damage and leading to the inability to fight common illnesses. The Ontario Health Board published advice last week including the statement “there is increasing evidence that Sars-Cov2 infection can cause immune dysregulation”.
The UK Health Security Agency guidance to parents on Strep A specifically mentions children who’ve recently had chicken pox as being vulnerable, as that virus is likely to have weakened their immune system. So what about the Covid-19 virus?
Is Covid the new Brexit?
If clinical evidence as to the long-term effects of Covid exists, why aren’t parents being told about it? Why are the voices such as Independent Sage, and other scientists and medics who dispute the ‘mild’ narrative, not being heard in the mainstream media? Eminent publications in the USA such as Time and Fortune magazines have published a number of articles about the long-term impact of Covid on our health (and economy), but there is nothing very visible in the UK media – why?
There is a worrying similarity with Brexit, where it is only very recently that the impact Brexit is having on the country is being discussed on the mainstream tv channels and newspapers.
Brexit created workforce shortages in key sectors including the NHS, farming and transport, and this continues to adversely affect the economy. Now the impact on the workforce from long Covid is clear to see. Over a fifth of the estimated 2.2 million people who are experiencing long Covid are unable to work because of this, with the Office for National Statistics stating the disease could be contributing to the downturn in the economy.
Concerns about the availability of critical medicines were experienced as the UK left the EU. Earlier this month, shortages of penicillin for children began being reported by pharmacies. Although the prime minister sought to reassure the public that this was not the case, the government has now taken action to address the shortage.
As with Brexit, the experts can see where we’re heading, but a different decision has ‘been made’, so the guardians of public health, and the public broadcasters, are unable to speak about it, leaving most of the public unaware of the possible impact on them and their children.
The fight to protect children’s health
People understandably want to believe that the world has returned to normal, but what if it hasn’t? What if this is the equivalent of the Brexit red bus with the £350mn for the NHS? The sooner we recognise it may be, and start to do something about it, the better. So, around the country many parents are beginning to fight for their children’s health and to try and protect them.
One way to mitigate against harm from airborne viruses like Covid is to clean the indoor air we breathe. Unlike the UK, the US government has provided hundreds of billions of dollars to improve indoor air quality, including $350bn for state and local governments, as well as $122bn for schools. Last month the White House hosted a summit to highlight the benefits of improved indoor air quality in mitigating the spread of Covid.
There is now a growing network of parent-led projects to install clean air devices in classrooms. In Warrington, in Somerset, in a number of London boroughs and other areas of the UK, as well as in the US, Canada and Australia, parents are raising funds, building clean air devices and ‘fighting’ to get them into every classroom to minimise the damage to their children’s health from airborne viruses.
Parents of long Covid children continue to fight for recognition of the condition by politicians but especially by the medical profession. Fight for more research – there is a lot of research into adults with long Covid but relatively little into the cause and impact on children – and help each other to find ways of getting their children better from long Covid and related illnesses.
We saw the denial of the consequences of Brexit for a very long time – from the government, from the main opposition party, the public broadcasters ignoring experts for unqualified pundits. Can we really afford to do the same with our children’s health?
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