MINISTER of Health Silvia Masebo says it can be hard to tell if a child has COVID-19 because of the mild manner in which it presents itself in children.

And Masebo says her ministry, working with the Ministry of Education, will take the COVID-19 vaccine closer to children at their schools.

Speaking during the COVID-19 update, Monday, Masebo said COVID-19 symptoms were taking an average of about six days after exposure to manifest.

“It has been observed that COVID-19 symptoms appear on average about six days after exposure to the infection. And because of the generally mild nature of the disease in children, it can be hard to tell if your child has COVID-19. This is because there are other illnesses which present with similar symptoms, such as the flu or hay fever. While children just like adults are as likely to get COVID-19, they usually are less likely to become severely ill; but yet still transmit the infection to others. However, some children with COVID-19 need to be hospitalized, treated in the intensive care unit or placed on a ventilator to help them breathe. Research and data from clinical observation indicates that certain medical conditions might increase a child’s risk of serious illness with COVID-19, including: Overweight or Obesity, Sugar disease, Asthma, heart disease, sickle cell disease and others,” she said.

“It is important that you know the possible symptoms of COVID-19 in children and what you can do to protect your child. Children with COVID-19 might have symptoms, or no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 in children are cough and fever. However, the possible signs and symptoms include: Fever, Cough associated with sputum production, Chest pain, Loss of taste or smell, Changes in the skin, such as discolored areas on the feet and hands, Sore throat, Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhea, Chills, Muscle aches and pain, Extreme fatigue, Severe headache, Nasal congestion.”

And Masebo said the vaccine would be taken closer to children in their schools.

“Working with our counterparts in the Ministry of Education, our vaccination teams will take the vaccine closer to the children at their schools. Our appeal to all parents is that they give consent for their children to get vaccinated. So far the updated numbers of children vaccinated is 18,178 (7,239 girls and 10,939 boys) aged 12 to 17 years. Lusaka has recorded the highest number of children vaccinated (3,528). We have however also seen some rural districts performing well in vaccinating children. These include Kalabo (417), Luampa (350), Milenge (350), Mitete (345), Samfya (341), Mulobezi (309) and Nchelenge (304). This should be encouraged and I appeal to all districts to follow suit. I also therefore direct all Provincial Health Directors to make sure that they report the daily progress of vaccination for children both in facilities and schools,” she said.

Meanwhile, Masebo said the country had made significant progress in controlling COVID-19.

“Clearly, we have made significant progress in controlling COVID-19. However, the pandemic is not anywhere near over. We have observed an increasing number of children getting infected. Currently, children represent about 10% of all COVID-19 cases recorded in Zambia. Sadly, we have lost 276 children throughout the 4 COVID-19 waves. Of these, 167 have been deaths among those aged 12-17 years. It is for this reason that we continue to emphasise the need to adhere to the ‘five golden rules’ as well as advocating for vaccination against COVID-19 among those children aged 12 years and above,” said Masebo.

“In the last 24 hours we recorded 125 new COVID-19 cases out of 1,938 tests conducted countrywide, giving an overall national positivity of 6%. This is the fourth consecutive day that our positivity has been below 10%. We admitted 6 new patients in the last 24hrs, and we discharged 710 patients from both home management and facility, leaving 3,158 active cases nationwide. Of the current active cases, 69 are admitted to hospital with 32 on oxygen therapy and 8 classified as critically ill. Of the admitted, 88% are unvaccinated patients. On a sad note; we report two deaths in the last 24 hours, one from Muchinga Province and the other one from North-western province. We have recorded a total of 3,917 deaths to date, all of whom were the most important person in someone’s life.”