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Brazil facing worrying child mortality

When the hospital announced the result of her son’s test in early June 2020, Jessika Ricarte initially did not believe it. ” Lucas was only one year and five months old. I didn’t think you could catch the Covid so young. And even less that a baby could have a serious form ”remembers this 31-year-old teacher, living in the town of Tamboril, located in the interior of the Nordeste.

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Loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue … For weeks, Lucas had been showing worrying symptoms. For the first time, in mid-May, Jessika took her to the hospital… but was sent home with simple antibiotics. ” The doctor said to me: “My little one, don’t worry. No need to take a Covid test. It’s just a little sore throat ””, she says by phone, her voice blank.

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In the days that follow, Lucas’s condition deteriorates further. Ultimately tested positive, he must be hospitalized and then intubated. For thirty-three days, the child oscillates between life and death, between cardiac arrest and unexpected resuscitation. ” I really thought he was going to be okay. I dreamed of him, of his return ”, says Jessika. At the end of his rope, Lucas dies on the morning of July 8. He was not 2 years old.

« No one should go through this. I feel so guilty… If we had tested him earlier, we could have saved him ”, Jessika sobs. Its drama is far from isolated: since the start of the pandemic, more than 2,800 children under the age of 10 have died as a result of Covid-19 in Brazil, according to figures disclosed by Vital Strategies, an NGO focused on public health issues. Of these, more than half were less than one year old.

“The under-notification is immense”

These frightening figures are without comparison with other countries in the world where data on the subject is available (in France, for example, only 13 children under 19 have died from Covid-19). Above all, they are two to three higher than those made public by the Ministry of Health. And for good reason: Vital Strategies data includes children who died of acute respiratory distress from unknown causes, most often the result of an undiagnosed Covid-19. ” But the real numbers are arguably even more important. The under-notification is immense ”, explains Fatima Marinho, the epidemiologist who coordinated the study.

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