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Is the delta variant more dangerous for children? A growing number of kids are very sick

Posted at 8:59 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 20:59:01-04

(WXYZ) — Michigan’s COVID-19 cases have jumped and are almost double what they were in 2020. The average number of new cases is 1,321 per day according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

This time last year, Michigan had 722 cases.

This is such disappointing news. And unfortunately, I think we will see our case numbers continue to rise in the coming weeks.

The Delta variant is exceptionally good at finding communities with low vaccination rates. And so far, only 63.9% of Michiganders aged 16 and up have received at least one dose of a vaccine. And just 49% of all ages are fully vaccinated.

So I am quite concerned especially since the new school year will be kicking off soon and many unvaccinated children will be returning to class.

As both a parent and a physician, it’s very worrying to see the dramatic increase in pediatric COVID-19 cases. One hospital in New Orleans has reported 20 children with severe cases of COVID-19 just in the last two weeks. While the state of Florida, where the Delta variant is raging, has been averaging 35 pediatric cases a day. And in the city of Houston, the pediatric hospitals are so full that one baby girl who was having seizures and needed intubation had to be airlifted to another hospital 150 miles away.

This is heartbreaking to hear. But does this mean that the Delta variant is more dangerous for children, is it actually causing more severe disease?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear. The CDC is looking at research to try and figure this out. But what complicates the data is that last summer, we had pandemic precautions in place – things like masks and social distancing. But this summer restrictions were relaxed. So the reason why more kids are getting sick could be a combination of fewer mitigation strategies, low vaccination rates, and a hypertransmissible variant. It simply could be that more kids are getting severe disease because more kids overall are getting infected.

Having said that, it’s still too early to really know and we need to collect a lot more data.

Influenza and COVID share many symptoms and both can lead to death. But COVID-19 can lead to multisystem inflammatory syndrome in kids. It’s a serious condition that causes dangerous inflammation in parts of the body like the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, or GI organs. It can show up weeks after a child’s been infected with the coronavirus. And many parents are caught by surprise, not knowing that their child even had the coronavirus in the first place because there were no symptoms. Yet suddenly their child is seriously sick and is in the ICU with organ failure. Whereas with the flu, children will have symptoms and doctors know what to look for. And treatment can get started quickly.

So once again, I will stress the importance of vaccinations. Anyone over the age of 12, if you can get vaccinated against COVID, please do. We can help our young ones stay safe if we surround them with a community that has a high vaccination rate.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.