- Title: Hospitalizations of children with COVID-19 soar
- Date: 9th August 2021
- Summary: JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES (AUGUST 9, 2021) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. JERRY BRIDGHAM, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER OF WOLFSON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF BAPTIST HEALTH, SAYING: "It's a 300 to 400 percent increase in the number of kids and also it reflects the fact that the kids are sicker because we have a higher percentage of our COVID-positive patients who need ICU as well."
- Embargoed: 23rd August 2021 23:45
- Location: DALLAS, HOUSTON AND SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS / JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES
- City: DALLAS, HOUSTON AND SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS / JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Health/Medicine,United States
- Reuters ID: LVA006EPK84EF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 is rising across the country, a trend health experts attribute to the Delta variant being more likely to infect children than the original Alpha strain. The trend is particularly acute across swathes of the country grappling with low vaccination rates and children's hospitals in those areas are reporting the largest number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
"Since early July, we've seen a steady increase in the number of cases and we've also seen an increase in hospitalized children and adolescents as well." said Texas Children's Hospital Interim Pediatrician-in-Chief Dr. James Versalovic. "It is considered a fourth wave here and it's due to the Delta variant, plain and simple. The Delta variant is the most contagious variant of COVID yet known. This Delta variant now comprises well over 90 percent of our cases in children and adolescents... The reality is children under 12 years of age do not have access to the vaccine yet. Children 12 and above may have access to the vaccine but many have not been vaccinated yet. We still have fewer than 50 percent of adolescents in this region who have been fully immunized as we prepare to begin a new school year."
Florida set records for hospitalizations for eight days in a row, according to the analysis. In both Texas and Florida, most students are due back in the classroom this month, with many starting this week, and some school districts debate whether to require masks for pupils.
Dr. Jerry Bridgham is Chief Medical Officer of Wolfson Children's Hospital of Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida, where they receive seriously ill patients from Florida and Georgia, another state with many pediatric COVID-19 cases. He said most patients are adults, but the percentage rise in pediatric cases has been more dramatic.
"It's a 300 to 400 percent increase in the number of kids and also it reflects the fact that the kids are sicker because we have a higher percentage of our COVID-positive patients who need ICU as well."
Here at Texas Children's Hospital - one of the largest pediatric hospital systems in the country - the staff has diagnosed more than 15,000 children and adolescents with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and about 10 percent of them have been admitted, Versalovic said.
Versalovic said children who are obese or have pre-existing conditions are at higher risk for hospitalization and complications, but admitted "it's often difficult to predict which child will need hospitalization due to COVID-19."
Both doctors advocated children over 12 years of age should be vaccinated and all children over the age of 3 should wear masks.
But with schools opening, the physicians have additional concerns.
"Somewhere on the order of four weeks after their acute COVID bout, they come down with this Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) which causes inflammation... They can have inflammatory conditions of their heart, their respiratory tract, their skin, their gi (gastrointestinal) tract. And those kids can also be fairly sick so one of the things that we're bracing ourselves for is, a few weeks after this peak in COVID admissions, we're looking at the possibility of an increase in MIS-C admissions to the hospital," Bridgham explained.
Versalovic said another complication is Long COVID. Although Long COVID is less likely to require hospitalization than MIS-C, the illness can linger for weeks or months.
"As we learn more and more about Long COVID, we know that it may certainly lead to chronic fatigue and inability for children and adolescents to focus properly. There might be neurological, behavioral issues and cardiac issues. We're just now still looking at the future here over the next few weeks and months and what the impact of Delta will be on Long COVID."
Nationwide, COVID-19 cases of all patients have averaged 100,000 for three days in a row, up 35% over the past week, according to a Reuters tally of public health data. Hospitalizations rose 40% and deaths, a lagging indicator, registered an 18% uptick in the past week. The surge of the disease was strongest in Louisiana, Florida and Arkansas.
(Production: Arlene Eiras)
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