KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 (Bernama) – The World Health Organisation recently declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic after taking into consideration the sharp rise in cases worldwide.

Over the past two weeks, the focus of the disease’s transmission shifted from China to the rest of the world.

Having spread to about 162 countries now, the tally has exceeded 180,000 cases and deaths, 7,000, with the figures having escalated rather dramatically. 

The situation in Malaysia is worrying. As of Monday (March 16), total COVID-19 positive cases in the country stood at 553, with a majority of them involving adults. The scenario is the same in other countries, with most of the confirmed cases and deaths involving senior citizens or adults with other prevailing health issues.

Studies carried out on 44,000 COVID-19 positive cases in China found that less than one percent of them comprised children below the age of 10. Why is the COVID-19 infection rate low among children?

And, why is the behaviour of the virus that causes SARS-COV-2 – where children and senior citizens fall victim to severe respiratory infection – different from other viruses such as the one that causes seasonal influenza?

In the case of SARS-COV-2, children are affected because their immune system is still developing and senior citizens, due to their weak immune system. 

However, it is a different story for children where COVID-19 is concerned. Various theories have been put forward but to date, the exact reason remains unknown.

COVID-19, nevertheless, can infect children. What sort of symptoms do children infected by the coronavirus show? The symptoms are the same (as adults’) – fever, cough and shortness of breath – but in the case of children, the symptoms are mild.

To protect children against COVID-19 infection, parents should:

  • Make sure they wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser.
  • Make sure they observe the coughing and sneezing etiquette. If a tissue is used to cover the mouth/nose, the soiled tissue should be disposed of in a dustbin. Wash hands with soap and water or cleanse with a sanitiser.
  • Make sure they keep their hands away from their face.
  • Prevent them from shaking hands with others.
  • Keep them away from people who are unwell.
  • Make sure they eat a balanced diet. Food served should be well-cooked and consist of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Drink an adequate amount of boiled water.
  • Ensure they practice social distancing. During the ongoing school holidays, avoid visiting crowded places and plan some activities for them at home.

It is the responsibility of all parents to take the necessary preventive steps to protect their children against infection. The practice of maintaining social distancing is very important to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic transmission rate can be reduced by delaying the epidemic peak, reducing the size of the epidemic peak and extending the duration of transmission in order to alleviate the burden on the healthcare system.

If the precautionary steps are ignored, the COVID-19 situation will worsen. The success of the social distancing approach hinges on the involvement of all individuals in society. Let’s do it.

This article is written by three experts from Universiti Malaya’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine.

Prof Dr Noran Naqiah Hairi is a public health medicine specialist and epidemiologist, Associate Prof Dr Farizah Mohd Hairi is a public health medicine specialist and Associate Prof Dr Hazreen Abdul Majid, a consultant dietician.


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