How Delta Variant Harmed Children in Arkansas

Conference | <b>ID Week</b>

Results unveiled at IDWeek 2021 disprove any misconceptions about pediatric COVID-19 cases lacking severity.

Data unveiled this week at the virtual IDWeek 2021 conference shed yet more doubt on the theory that children 18 years of age and younger suffer only mild to asymptomatic symptoms from COVID-19.

That study comes on the heels of a huge randomized controlled peer reviewed study published this week in PLOS Medicine that garnered headlines because not only did it show that 1 in 3 survivors of the disease will exhibit symptoms 3 to 6 months after initial infection, but that younger people also show symptoms. In that study, investigators with Oxford University wrote that “it is notable that long-COVID features were also recorded in children and young adults, and in more than half of non-hospitalized patients, confirming that they occur even in young people and those who had a relatively mild illness….

At the IDWeek conference, it was reported that the emergence of the more infectious Delta variant (B.1.617.2) as the dominant strain in Arkansas led the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to investigate whether this is still the case.

Delta did not become the leading variant in Arkansas until the first week in July 2021, but children were contracting COVID-19 at schools during the January 2021 surge even with physical mitigation measures (PMM).

ADH’s findings, presented at the virtual IDWeek conference, showed that there were 31.6% fewer pediatric COVID-19 cases in July 2021 than in January 2021 (8031 versus 11735), but pediatric hospitalization, ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, and death all peaked in July 2021.

Among children infected with the Delta variant, hospitalization was up by 41.9% (n=105), ICU admissions increased 68.6% (n=18), and ventilator use raised by 300% (n=8).

The one pediatric death recorded was the first in Arkansas since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results disproved any misconceptions about pediatric COVID-19 cases lacking severity. The ADH predicted that the July 2021 Delta outbreak would only result in more pediatric cases as schools opened in the fall, leading them to recommend schools update and reinstate their PMM efforts.

This article originally appeared in Contagion®.