Doctors fear Delta variant may be more dangerous for children: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’

Percentage of children infected with Covid-19 has risen dramatically in recent weeks

Bevan Hurley
Friday 06 August 2021 23:12
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Emergency room doctors say they are admitting alarming numbers of children with severe symptoms from the Covid-19 Delta variant.

Stories of hospitals becoming overwhelmed with very sick children are emerging in the Covid-19 hotspots of Louisiana, Texas and Florida.

But despite the anecdotal evidence, pediatricians said it was too soon to say if the Delta variant was more dangerous for children than earlier strains of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr Rochelle Walensky said it was examining data to see if the Delta variant was causing more serious illness in children.

The hyper-transmissibility of the variant was one area of concern, as many school districts prepared to return to classrooms in the coming weeks.

And vaccinations are not expected to be available for children aged under 12 until mid-winter at the earliest, the Food and Drug Administration said last month.

Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech began trials of their Covid-19 vaccines for kids under 12 in March. Results are expected in the fall, and the FDA would need time to review the results before granting emergency approval.

At the Children’s Hospital New Orleans, the number of children with severe Covid symptoms has gone from 0 to 20 in two weeks.

Hospital physician-in-chief Dr Mark Kline told NBC News said the rate of child illness was far worse than during the first year of the pandemic.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

“We are seeing children fall ill that we just simply didn’t see in the first year of the pandemic, before the delta variant came along.”

In Florida, Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children Infectious Diseases medical director Dr Federico Laham said cases had increased in the past two weeks.

“I don’t think we have reached our peak,” he told NBC News.

In Texas, an 11-month-old girl experiencing severe Covid-19 symptoms was airlifted from Houston to a hospital 150 miles away in Temple after none of the city’s pediatric units said they could take her.

According to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the percentage of children becoming infected had risen substantially in the week ending July 29.

Prior to July 15, just over 14 per cent of reported Covid-19 cases in the United States affected children.

But in the two weeks to July 29, that percentage rose to 19 per cent of reported cases.

Just under 72,000 positive tests were reported among children that week, compared to 39,000 the week before.

Nearly 4.2 million children have been infected with Covid since the beginning of the pandemic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said the definition of children varies from state to state. Most states record children as 16 and under or 18 and under.

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