Wellbeing

Keeping Our Kids Safe

By April 13th, 2022No Comments
Mother helping her young daughter put on a face mask.

With the phased return of Queensland students to schools, many parents and caregivers are wondering about the risks this may pose for their child, or even for themselves and their family. It is understandable to have some anxiety about this. However, there are some reassuring facts becoming known about COVID-19 when it comes it our children and schools.

 

Studies on COVID-19 have shown markedly low infection rates for children, and even lower transmissibility within schools. In an early study in the Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection on the first 45,000 cases in China, they found that only 0.9% of infections were from children aged 0-10 years. In addition, 1.2% infections were children aged 11-19 years old. Many other countries noted this low rate of infection also, including the United States, Taiwan and South Korea.  Australia appears to be no different, with only 2.4% of confirmed cases being children. These children are between ages 5 and 18 years,  according to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

Epidemiologist Dr Kathryn Snow, from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for International Child Health, also confirms this. She states in a recent article that “the evidence shows that although primary school-aged children can catch COVID-19, they usually only experience a mild illness. Interestingly, although they can definitely catch it, it seems that they almost never pass the virus on to anybody else”.

Dr Snow’s comments echo a report commissioned by NSW Health from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance. Here they found that of the 18 cases in NSW schools, there were 735 students and 128 staff identified as close contacts. However, there were no confirmed instances of transmission to these 863 contacts.

Despite the low risk profile for children, it is still important to ensure strong hygiene principles are in place to reduce the risk even further. Many parents are aware of the many measures that are in place at schools. But, a question I have had from parents is often around what part they can play in reducing the risk further.

The answers are simple, and they lie in adhering to the many epidemiological concepts that we are all familiar with right now.
  • Regular handwashing and sanitising. This is the gold standard, and having a hand sanitiser in the car so your child can clean their hands before leaving the vehicle and when they get in can only help
  • Ensure your child’s name is on their lunchbox and drink bottle . This reduces the chance of transmission through sharing of lunches and drinks
  • Practice physical distancing during pickups and drop offs. Although this is often a great time to catch up with other parents, this could also promote transmissibility amongst the school community if one infected person were to infect another (unsick) individual. Ideally parents and carers would only exit their vehicles to assist their child with their seat belts for example. Realistically, this is something that will need to work in with the drop-off and pick-up procedures for your particular school.
  • Perhaps one of the most important ones is keeping your child home when they are sick. YES – this includes when they have the sniffles or other flu-like symptoms.

The overwhelming majority of cases where children have contracted COVID-19 have been from home-based transmission. Therefore, ensuring that all family members follow the federal and state government advice on social distancing and hygiene is particularly important to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Your physical health is extremely important during this time. However, it is important we take care of our mental health as well. Read more about how to care for your mental health during a crisis here.

For tips for an easier transition back to school during COVID19, click here.

David Kemp is the Work Health and Safety Manager at Cairns Catholic Education