The omicron wave is triggering record hospitalisation of children under the age of 5. The trend is especially marked in the UK. Incredibly, from just Tuesday to Thursday last week the daily hospitalisation rate tripled.
The same trend is unfolding in the US. The American Academy of Paediatricians reported over 325,000 new COVID cases in children nation-wide in the final week of the year. This was a 64% increase on the prior week and a doubling of case numbers versus two weeks before.
Several US states are also recording record numbers of paediatric admissions: Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as Washington, D.C.
“It seems like people have tried to downplay the significance of the disease in children,” Dr Mark Kline, physician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, told NBC. “We’ve spent two years rebutting myths pertaining to Covid and children, that it’s ‘harmless’ for children. It’s not.”
A study carried out by Dr Kline found that half of child hospital admissions needed help breathing. A third of admissions went to intensive care.
More than 10% of minors in the United States have now had COVID at least once. Since the start of the pandemic, a child’s likelihood of dying if infected with COVID has been approximately 1 in 10,000.
There is emerging but as yet inconclusive evidence that the omicron variant is less lethal than previous variants, given that it reportedly concentrates less in the lungs. Some paediatricians believe the new variant may, however, pose unique risks for children for this same reason.
Earlier research found up to 40% of children who become sick with COVID may suffer a persistent symptom four months or more after infection.
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Feature image courtesy of @mdominguezfoto via Unsplash.