As the number of U.S. children with COVID-19 continues to surge, there are a number of things parents should know, a pediatric infectious disease expert says.
“What used to be the average number of children with COVID for the whole hospital is now the average just for the intensive care unit,” says Dr. Jessica Ericson, of Penn State Health Children’s Hospital in Hershey, Pa.
“Back in October, we were seeing three to five children hospitalized at a time, and now we’re averaging about 20 children at a time, with five in the ICU,” Ericson said in a hospital news release.
For the week ending Jan. 27, more than 808,000 new cases in kids were reported in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. That’s 18.6% of all U.S. cases.
And while the Jan. 27 number was down from a peak of 1.15 million the week before, child cases remained three times higher than the 2021 Delta peak.
Hospitalization is rising fastest among kids under age 4, who are too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In that age group, the rate in January was more than 4 in 100,000 children — twice that reported a month ago and about three times the rate at this time last year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Which kids are most susceptible?
Three groups of children appear most susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, according to Ericson.
They include newborns whose immune systems are immature; children with high-risk medical conditions such as cancer or a