People should look out for eight signs of acute encephalitis in children and seek emergency medical treatment if they occur, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday.
The symptoms are a body temperature of at least 41°C, impaired consciousness, excessive sleepiness, a persistent headache, vomiting, involuntary muscle twitching (myoclonic jerks), convulsions and an unsteady gait, said Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞), deputy head of the CECC’s medical response division.
The symptoms were spelled out in the “Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute COVID-19 Encephalitis in Children,” drawn up by members of the Taiwan Pediatric Association and other medical experts during a conference on Saturday, Lo said.
The number of children with COVID-19 developing acute encephalitis has been increasing amid Taiwan’s latest COVID-19 outbreak, Lo said.
People can develop a high fever due to an infection, but a fever of at least 41°C could signal a central nervous system disorder, he said, adding that people with impaired consciousness might even hallucinate.
“If parents notice the symptoms in their child, they should immediately seek medical attention, either by calling the 119 emergency hotline or taking their child to a hospital using private transport,” he said.
During enterovirus outbreaks, especially those involving the enterovirus 71 strain, cases of encephalitis in children have also increased, so people should watch for symptoms of other types of viral infections as well, he said.
Conference participants also discussed treatment methods for children with acute neurological emergencies, including increased intracranial pressure, COVID-19 infection and related immunotherapy, and epileptic seizure management, he said.
Lo said that 12 children have been diagnosed with severe COVID-19 so far this year, including five who developed encephalitis.
Four of the children with encephalitis are under the age of four, while the other case is a 10-year-old boy, reported yesterday, he said.
The boy does not have chronic health issues. He sought treatment at a clinic for a fever, dizziness and vomiting on May 13, and returned home to rest, he said.
He experienced impaired consciousness and muscle twitching the next day, and tested positive with a rapid COVID-19 test, Lo said.
He was taken to an emergency room and was found to have a fever of 40.1°C, mild pneumonia, brain edema, an irregular heartbeat, a low blood oxygen level and multiple organ dysfunction, Lo said.
The child was intubated and admitted to an intensive care unit for treatment, he added.
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