Mental health problems in children increased during the pandemic; awareness and use of COVID treatments is low

Palestinian children attend a mental health session in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, June 6, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

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April 28 (Reuters) – The following is a summary of some recent studies of COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to confirm the findings and has yet to be certified by peer review.

Pandemic related to mental health problems in children

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of children and adolescents, researchers say, based on their analysis of findings from 17 previous studies.

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The studies – published in 2020 and 2021 – found unusually high rates of anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, suicidal behavior, stress-related disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other mental health problems during the pandemic. Individual behaviors, such as hobbies, praying and listening to music, were associated with positive mental health, the studies also found. “Mental health problems were more common in people of low socioeconomic status, lack of social connections and support, unfavorable family relationships, limited mobility,” among other factors, including school closures and “COVID-related family or community health experiences,” said Dr. M. Mahbub Hossain of Texas A&M University, co-author of a report posted Tuesday on medRxiv prior to peer review.

“In many places, mental health resources and services in schools and in the community were either inaccessible or inaccessible, making it difficult for children and adolescents to receive timely mental health care,” Hossain said, adding that there is a need for “multiple efforts to assess the immediate and future health and social impact” of the pandemic on the mental health of children and teens.

Awareness, use of anti-COVID drugs is low

Less than 2% of unhospitalized high-risk patients with COVID-19 are receiving drugs that can limit the extent of their disease, study findings suggest.

In March 2022, researchers recruited 1,159 people from 37 states who were positive for SARS-CoV-2 to PCR tests and asked if they knew of or had effective treatments for the virus, such as monoclonal antibodies or oral antiviral drugs molnupiravir from Merck & Co ( MRK.N) or Pfizer’s (PFE.N) Paxlovid. Of the 241 people over the age of 65, whose age puts them at risk for severe COVID-19, 66% knew about treatments and 36.3% had sought them, but only 1.7% reported taking such drugs , according to a report posted Tuesday to medRxiv ahead of peer review.

Of the patients under the age of 65, even fewer were aware of the treatments and had sought them, and the rates of use were hardly higher than in the older group. “There is a need for greater awareness of effective drugs for COVID-19 among the public and health professionals to prevent serious illness and death,” said study leader Dr. Noah Kojima of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Wastewater from passenger plane shows Omicron entering France by plane

Aircraft wastewater testing shows that requiring proof of COVID vaccination and negative tests for international flights does not necessarily protect countries from spreading new variants.

Researchers found the Omicron variant in wastewater from two commercial planes flying from Ethiopia to France in December 2021, although passengers were required to undergo COVID testing and show vaccination cards before boarding. “This can be explained by two things,” said study leader Dr Bernard La Scola of the University of Aix-Marseille in France. First, tests on long journeys can be negative the day before departure and positive on arrival, “the virus has not yet multiplied enough on the day of the test to be detectable.” Second, people can obtain false documentation. Some passengers told him it was very easy to buy false negative tests.

It’s not practical to test every passenger coming off a long-haul flight, he acknowledged. One solution could be to test the plane’s wastewater as it lands, with a result obtained before passengers go through customs and baggage claim, his team suggested in a paper posted to medRxiv ahead of peer review. If the wastewater is positive, passengers can be tested before they depart, but that approach only makes sense in countries where a new variant is not yet circulating. “Once the virus is circulating a lot in the country, it’s useless,” La Scola said.

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Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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