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Children with MS can go back to COVID-safe schools agree specialists

A group of leading neurologists in childhood MS have agreed that children with multiple sclerosis are not a high risk group for coronavirus. And that almost all children should return to school full time.

They say that nothing can be 100% safe, but unless a child’s neurologist suggests taking extra precautions, they should follow government guidance for all children at school.

The statement below has been written by the MS service leads on behalf of the UK Childhood Inflammatory Demyelination Network (UKCID). They’re neurologists who manage the care of children with MS and similar neurological conditions.

The UKCID MS service leads statement

"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; 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.”

Read the latest information about MS, coronavirus and schools