GESA’s back to school advice: safe for kids with IBD

GESA has updated its advice regarding school attendance for children with IBD as Australia emerges from COVID-19 lockdown with apparently very low levels of community transmission of the virus.

The GESA statement says it is now safe for the vast majority of IBD patients and their siblings to return to schools.

“The evidence suggests that most immunosuppressed children are not at a significantly higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease than their age-matched peers.”

“The very low rates of community transmission mean that the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 infection is currently very low.

“It is not in children’s best interests to exclude them from school indefinitely when the evidence suggests that the risk of developing severe COVID-19 is very low.”

It noted the ready availability of testing and good contact tracing capability meant that Australian authorities were well placed to isolate and contain any outbreaks that occurred.

GESA said the risk of developing COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation was potentially highest in patients on very high doses of steroids.

It recommended flu vaccination as usual but particularly this year to avoid confusion or co-infection with the coronavirus.

The statement advised parents to ensure older school-aged children complied with infection prevention measures such as regular handwashing and social distancing.

“The greatest risk for school outbreaks remains adults. Therefore, it is very important that parents comply with restrictions to minimise the contact that they have with other parents, teachers and students in the school environment.”

The GESA recommendations have been adopted from similar advice issued by the Transplantation Society of ANZ regarding paediatric transplant patients.

TSANZ also noted there was no need for children to wear a mask and there was no suggestion that immunosuppressed children were at increased risk of developing paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS-TS).

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