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As schools and colleges re-open across the UK, members of the UK Childhood Inflammatory Disease Network released a statement confirming that most children and young people with MS can safely return to educational settings.
The UK Childhood Inflammatory Disease Network (UKCID) are the neurologists in England that manage the care of children with multiple sclerosis and other demyelinating and neuroinflammatory conditions. These include young people under the age of eighteen that have MS, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), transverse myelitis (TM) or similar conditions. As schools began to open in the UK, they considered the evidence about the risks that young people with MS would face on their return to schools and colleges, so they could produce a consistent message to the families they support.
Here is the full text of their statement:
Returning to school safely and with confidence
The emergence of novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID 19) has presented a new challenge to neurologists managing children with Multiple Sclerosis (and other demyelinating and neuroinflammatory conditions) in the UK. Not only has the pandemic limited face to face visits, imaging access and easy laboratory monitoring, it has also prompted concern about whether COVID 19 will result in increased risk of severe illness in children with this rare group of disorders.
These patients are often managed with a range of disease modifying treatments, many of which suppress the immune system and some significantly reduce the white blood cells which help fight infection (lymphocyte count). The question as to whether these patients should be shielded and whether they are safe to return to school and college in September is important to consider and address. Members of the UK Childhood Inflammatory Diseases Network have considered this issue as a group.
Whilst nothing can be 100% safe, experience and published medical evidence across the UK and Europe over the past 6 months has fortunately not shown that these patients are at high risk, even when they have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. Based on 1. our experience of paediatric MS patients with Covid 19; 2. the fact that paediatric MS patients rarely have associated disease like diabetes, hypertension and cardiac disease; and 3. that paediatric MS patients rarely have significant physical disability, we have agreed that the academic and social benefits of going to school or college and socialising with peers outweigh the risks.
Thus, as a group of Paediatric Neurologists managing this group of children in the UK, we feel that our patients should almost all be returning to full time education.
Precautions should be adhered to in line with government guidance for schools on social distancing, hand washing and the wearing of face coverings in the same way for any child.
There may be specific situations where a child needs to remain on the “Extremely Vulnerable” list either permanently or temporarily in relation to their treatment or in the case of a new national or local lockdown These children will be identified by their specific consultant neurologist and advised appropriately.
- Neurology 2020. Full article J, Ciccarelli O. Treating multiple sclerosis and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder during the COVID 19 pandemic.
- Lancet Neurol 2020;19:481 482. Full article An Italian programme for COVID 19 infection in multiple sclerosis.
- Mult Scler 2020:135245852093764 Full article What does first line therapy mean for paediatric multiple sclerosis in the current era?
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