BABIES and children are dying at an “alarming rate” in Brazil where the coronavirus is rife.
An estimated 1,300 babies have died of Covid since the start of the pandemic in the South American country, which has the second highest death toll worldwide.
🔵 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates
By comparison, there have been two deaths of babies in the UK out of 150,000 deaths caused by, or involving Covid, according to the Office for National Statistics.
A futher 12 children in one to 14 year olds have died, making it extremely rare.
Children are relatively at low risk of Covid. Although they can catch it, the disease rarely kills them.
But Brazil is currently facing a spiralling outbreak, with record numbers of 60,000 to 70,000 infections per day, on average.
A new variant, named P1, is also spreading throughout the country, home to 211 million people.
The variant has been detected 40 times in the UK since its importation in January.
Experts have previously warned Brits need to stay extremely cautious as the lockdown is eased due to new variants like P1.
Child deaths in Brazil
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has refused to use lockdowns and vaccinations are moving at a slow pace.
The crisis has been described as a “humanitarian catastrophe” by the international medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders.
Data from the Health Ministry says that 800 children under the age of nine, including 500 babies, have died of Covid.
But experts told the BBC the true toll is likely to be several times higher because testing has been scarce.
Dr Fatima Marinho of the University of São Paolo, a leading epidemiologist who is a senior adviser to the international non-governmental organization Vital Strategies, estimated that the virus has killed 2,060 children under nine, including 1,302 babies.
The estimate is based on the number of excess deaths from an unspecified acute respiratory syndrome during the pandemic.
“Excess deaths” are those that are above what would be expected in any given year, and can be used as a way of measuring the true death toll of Covid.
Dr Marinho said there had been ten times the number of deaths listed as caused by an unexplained respiratory disease compared to previous years.
In these cases, it’s possible doctors could not say the death was caused by Covid because there was not an available Covid test to prove it.
Covid can also go undiagnosed in children because they show different symptoms to adults.
My child died of Covid but it could have been avoided
A HEARTBROKEN mum from Brazil has described the events leading up to her son’s death of Covid.
Jessika Ricarte and her husband Israel’s one-year-old son Lucas began experiencing strange symptoms in May 2020.
The teacher told the BBC that Lucas lost his appetite, then developed a fever, fatigue and laboured breathing.
Terrified, Jessika took Lucas to the hospital where doctors said it was rare for children to get Covid, and so sent them home with antibiotics.
After three weeks with only small signs of improvement, Jessika, from Tamboril in Ceará, north-east Brazil, took Lucas back to hospital.
Lucas was finally tested for Covid and it was his godmother, who works at the hospital, who had to break the tragic news.
The tot was sent to another hospital two hours away and spent 33 days on ICU, during which time he had a cardiac arrest and stroke – but Jessika was only allowed to see him three times.
Then suddenly, Lucas’s heart rate and oxygen levels dropped so low that he died.
Jessika said: “It was a situation that could have been avoided.
“It is important that doctors, even if they believe it is not Covid, do the test to eliminate the possibility.
“A baby does not say what he is feeling, so we depend on tests.”
According to UK data collected by King’s College London, the most common symptoms in school-aged kids are fatigue (55 per cent) headache (53 per cent), fever (49 per cent), sore throat (38 per cent) and loss of appetite (35 per cent).
Children can also have a rash or diarrhoea.
But the official NHS list of symptoms, which allows someone to get a free test, are a cough, high temperature and loss of smell and/or taste.
There is a misconception that children are at zero risk for Covid, Dr Fatima Marinho said.
But she added that because the rate of coronavirus is so much higher in Brazil, this increases the risk that a child will become infected.
Renato Kfouri, president of the Scientific Department of Immunisations of the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics, said: “Of course, the more cases we have and, as a result, the more hospitalisations, the greater the number of deaths in all age groups, including children.
“But if the pandemic were controlled, this scenario could evidently be minimised.”
The new P1 variant has been reported as being more lethal in young people.
Southern Brazil is seeing a sudden rise in Covid deaths among young and middle-aged adults.
One study revealed deaths has tripled in people in their 20s between January and February. But there was no change in the rates of children or teenagers.
It comes as Brazil’s healthcare system teeters on the brink of collapse due to the severity of the outbreak.
Some 640 hospitals in Sao Paulo, which is reporting the most deaths of any state, are on the verge of collapse, according to state health secretary Jean Carlo Gorinchteyn.
He said medical supplies are urgently needed, particularly drugs that sedate patients so they can be put onto ventilation.
But elsewhere in the country, doctors say the lack of drugs is leading to devastating consequences.
An anonymous doctor at the Albert Schweitzer municipal hospital in Rio de Janeiro said that doctors are having to tie gravely sick patients to beds to ventilate them.
Sedatives are being diluted so they can be shared around more patients, Sky News reported.
Although Brazil has the second highest number of Covid deaths, after the US, it has the third highest diagnosed cases.
India overtook Brazil to have the highest cumulative infections, at almost 14.3 million.
These figures can only account for those who got a Covid test.
Daily infections crossed 200,000 on Thursday, according to official data, the highest anywhere in the world.
Hospitals are overburdened, and videos have emerged of two patients sharing one bed as they gasp for breath.
After imposing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns for nearly three months last year, India’s government relaxed almost all curbs by the start of this year.
Many regions have introduced localised restrictions, but the overly populated country, of 1.3 billion citizens, shows no sign of recovery.