Over 10 per cent of children in Japan who developed acute brain syndrome after infection with COVID-19 have died, Kyodo News reported citing results of a nationwide survey recently announced by a health ministry research team.
The survey found 34 cases of acute encephalopathy related to COVID-19 infection among those below the age of 18 years between January 2020 and May 2022. The team analysed 31 patients who did not have any underlying illnesses that could cause the brain disease. While 19 of the 31 children recovered, four died and eight were confirmed with complications.
Among the eight children, five were reported as having severe aftereffects, including unconsciousness and being bedridden in need of care. Primary initial symptoms included seizures, which were experienced by around half of the patients, impaired consciousness, and abnormal speech or behaviour.
The majority of the patients developed acute encephalopathy in January 2022 or later, when the Omicron strain of the coronavirus became prevalent. However, there was no major difference in the ratio of those who developed the brain symptoms among COVID-infected children before and after 2022, showing that Omicron is not necessarily making it easier for the brain disease to develop, as per the study.
Junichi Takanashi, a professor in pediatric neurology at Tokyo Women’s Medical University Yachiyo Medical Center, who led the research team, said, “We would advise going to a hospital quickly…if convulsions occurring with a fever don’t stop in 10 minutes, loss of consciousness continues, or strange behaviour is noticed,” according to Kyodo News.
As per the news report, acute encephalopathy among children is not limited to COVID-19 infection. It is also known to affect those who have been infected with influenza.
Meanwhile, 514 children attending elementary, junior high and high schools in Japan died by suicide in 2022, topping the previous high of 499 witnessed in 2020, Kyodo News reported citing government data. The upward trend has been apparently fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 17 elementary school pupils, 143 junior high school students and 354 high school students committed suicide in 2022. The increase in the numbers could be attributable to the lingering effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, which started in 2020, Kyodo News reported citing a ministry official working on measures to prevent suicides.