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Officials with the American Academy of Pediatrics stress that there’s no need for alarm but they do urge that more data be collected concerning children and COVID-19 infection, and they also note that there’s still no vaccine for youngsters 5–12.
More data have come to light that underscores not only that the delta variant (B.1.617.2) of COVID-19 hits younger people harder than the so-called wild-type variant (D614G) that had the United States on its heels this time last year, but just how young those people can be.
Infection Control Today® reported on this development earlier this month, noting that Inci Yildirim, MD, PhD, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious diseases specialist and a vaccinologist, talked about how those 50 and under could be more in danger of getting infected by the delta variant than by previous iterations of the coronavirus. Yildirim also noted that there’s not yet been a vaccine approved for children 5–12.
Now, a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that 127,427 children were infected by COVID-19 from August 5 to August 12, representing an 18% increase in weekly reported cases for children. (The definition of “child” varies from state to state. But all the 49 states reporting start at 0; it’s the higher end cutoff that varies. It can be anywhere from 14 years old to 20.) Children represent 14.4% of all cases in the pandemic up until this point.
“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children,” the AAP states in a press release about the study. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”
Of the 11 states reporting testing, children made up between 10.9% to 20.6% of total cumulated tests, of which between 4.7%–17.7% of children tested positive. Twenty-three states reported hospitalizations, and children ranged from 1.6%–3.5% of total cumulated hospitalizations.
Pediatricians who spoke to the Wall Street Journal expressed concern about the uptick in COVID-19 infection among children. The newspaper states that doctors in the South and Midwest note that they’re treating more children and are worried about a surge in pediatric cases.
The Wall Street Journal reports that “children’s hospitals are bracing for even more cases as schools reopen. They are hiring more nurses, reworking discharge protocols, speeding up room cleanings, laying contingency plans to expand bed capacity and preparing staff for an uptick in multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MIS-C “is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.” The CDC admits that it does not “yet know what causes MIS-C. However, many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19.”
Linda Spaulding RN, BC, CIC, a member of ICT®’s Editorial Advisory Board, told ICT® in a Q&A in February that it’s a mistake to underestimate the harm COVID-19 can do to younger people.
“People keep talking about, ‘Well the young kids. They’ll get it. They’ll get over it. It’s no big deal.’ But that’s not the reality of it. There are many young kids that have gotten COVID and are now dealing with what they’re calling long-haulers disorder. And that’s when they do have heart damage, or they have lung damage. And it appears right from what we know is that will be lifelong. The young people that think, ‘Oh, I can go do what I want to do. And if I get COVID, that’s fine. I’ll get over it.’ That’s not the case.”
She added that “it can be fatal in kids.”