COVID-19 cases in children on the rise at CHKD

CHKD, Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, hospital, local hospital
Posted at 4:59 AM, Aug 19, 2021

NORFOLK, Va. - At the start of 2021, CHKD saw a spike in COVID-19 cases in kids, with more than 1,200 in January. Now, they are now seeing a resurgence after a lull in June.

"This has been a very topsy-turvy respiratory viral year," said Dr. Laura Sass, medical director of infection prevention and control at CHKD. "Another surge is here."

COVID-19 is affecting young patients and teens nationally and locally. Sass says they are now seeing anywhere from 20 to 40 positive cases in the health system each day.

From August 1 to August 17 alone, there have been around 500 positive cases of COVID-19 in children and teens. Not all were hospitalized.

CHKD says they have also been seeing MIS-C, or multi-system inflammatory syndrome. MIS-C is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.

We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, we know that children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV2). They may not have had any symptoms of the infection and sometimes have been around someone with COVID-19.

MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with medical care. The children who were treated for this at CHKD improved with treatment.

CHKD treated the most children for MIS-C in February, and the number has gone down since then. Here are symptoms of MIS-C:

  • A fever AND any of the following signs and symptoms:
    • Abdominal (gut) pain
    • Bloodshot eyes
    • Chest tightness/pain
    • Diarrhea
    • Feeling extra tired
    • Headache
    • Low blood pressure
    • Neck pain
    • Rash
    • Vomiting

"I predict that we will have a surge with MIS-C in the next four to six weeks," said Sass.

Another respiratory illness seeing an uptick, CHKD officials say, is RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. Pediatricians typically see RSV during the winter months.

The virus gives most people a bad cold, but in babies, it can be more serious and can cause bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

During the pandemic winter months of late 2020 and early 2021, CHKD says it didn’t see as many cases of RSV as they normally do. The measures that it uses to prevent COVID-19 - such as social distancing, wearing masks and the extra washing of hands and surfaces - prevent all sorts of viruses.

But in the spring of 2021, those viruses began to return, so much so that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an advisory in June about increasing rates of RSV, especially in southern states. Part of the reason could be that people were relaxing mask-wearing restrictions and gathering in closer groups more frequently.

Health officials have seen an increase in RSV at CHKD. Parents of young children, especially those who were born prematurely or who have lung or heart problems, should monitor children who develop cold symptoms.

Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Frequent cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Audible wheezing
  • Sucking in around the ribs with breathing
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Trouble talking, or a weak cry
  • Pallor or a blue tinge to the skin
  • Unusual sleepiness or weakness

If any of those happen, seek medical attention. If none of these are happening, but your child has a bad cough or high fever, it’s worth calling your pediatrician for advice. Parents should do that anyway because COVID-19 could also cause a cough or fever.

"At one point, 40% of our tests coming back were positive for RSV," said Sass.

Sass says the best way to protect your unvaccinated family members, including children who cannot get vaccinated yet, include:

  • Getting vaccinated yourself. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people getting COVID-19 and can also reduce the risk of spreading it.
  • Being sure to get everyone in your family who is 12 years or older vaccinated against COVID-19.

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