Social distancing slows spread of common respiratory diseases in children
Social distancing and other lockdown interventions effectively reduce the spread of common respiratory viral diseases and decrease the need for hospitalization among children, a Finland study has shown.
The authors used hospital patient information and the Finnish national infectious disease register for this study to assess the immediate effects of national lockdown orders due to COVID-19 on paediatric emergency room (ER) visits and respiratory tract infections in hospitals and nationwide in Finland.
All patients visiting the paediatric ER in two hospital (Kuopio University Hospital and Mikkeli Central Hospital), covering one-fifth of the Finnish children population, 4 weeks before and 4 weeks after the start of the nationwide lockdown on 16 March 2020 were included.
In addition, the authors assessed nationwide weekly numbers of influenza (A + B) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children from the infectious disease register from 2015 to 2020.
The rate of daily median paediatric ER visits in both hospitals significantly decreased during the nationwide lockdown compared with the study period before the lockdown (Mikkeli: 19 vs 7; p<0.001; Kuopio: 9 vs 2.5; p<0.001).
The present influenza season was shorter at 8 weeks from peak to no cases, and the weekly rate of new cases decreased faster than the previous four influenza seasons (previously 15–20 weeks from peak to no cases). RSV also saw a similar reduction in cases.
Of note, no paediatric cases of COVID-19 were detected in the two hospitals during the study period.