TOPEKA (KSNT) – Doctors of the Morning Medical Update met once again on Friday to talk about how COVID-19 and the Omicron variant are affecting children in Kansas.
The Morning Medical Update hosted Dr. Angela Myers, Director of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, and Dr. Mitchell Douglass, a psychiatrist and medical director at the University of Kansas Health System’s Marillac Campus. Both spoke to their experiences during the pandemic with helping children cope and recover from the after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Myers specifically talked about COVID-19 infection rates among children. She said that children are winding up in the hospital now because they are catching the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and passing it on to those who have underlying health conditions, making them more susceptible to the effects of the virus.
“The majority of deaths have been in children that have underlying health conditions just as the majority of deaths in adults are,” Myers said. “Thankfully, death in children is far less common than it is in adults but we have seen an uptick in that related to the fact that there is more kids getting infected and then more hospitalizations leading to more serious illness.”
Myers went on to say that many children who get COVID-19 and recover may develop a condition called MIS-C or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MIS-C is associated with COVID-19 and is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed.
“It is really a huge inflammatory response post-COVID-19 infection and remember that you can have milder, even asymptomatic COVID infection and develop MIS-C a few weeks later and it oftentimes infects the heart,” Myers said. “People have decreased heart function. It effects the lungs, the liver, the kidneys… oftentimes there’s a rash, there’s high fevers and there’s really high inflammatory markers.”
Children who develop MIS-C can become “very, very sick” according to Myers. The recovery process from MIS-C involves high doses of steroids and other medications to decrease the inflammatory response. Myers did note that MIS-C is a relatively uncommon complication after having COVID-19 but she has seen an uptick in the past month due to Omicron. She went on to say that MIS-C cases this year have so far been similar in number to those that developed in January of 2021.
Children’s Mercy Hospital currently has had 30 children in its care since the beginning of January with COVID-19 infections. Myers noted that numbers have not been that high since the Delta variant surge over the summer in 2021 where a total of 22 children were hospitalized.
“So previously, most of the kids that were hospitalized were teenagers, many of which had a risk factor that was obesity,” Myers said. “That was the biggest risk factor that we saw in teenagers. Now, we’re seeing kids in infancy, as young as three months, in the hospital with COVID infection. So we’re seeing the broader age range expand out and then higher number of kids in the hospital.”
A total of eight children have died from COVID-19 in Kansas. Five have been in the age group of 0-9 years old while three have been from 10-17 years old.
“One death is too many, especially when we have vaccines that can prevent infection in kids five and above and, hopefully, soon, for younger children as well,” Myers said.
A Canadian study found that depression/anxiety symptoms had doubled, 11% of youth are seeking help for these symptoms.
Douglas remarked that people will need to make a greater effort with having open and honest conversations with children about how they are doing. He emphasized that it is alright to talk to kids about suicide as it will not give them ideas while doing or saying nothing might.
The Morning Medical Report cited a Canadian study during the discussion, saying that it had found that depression and anxiety symptoms had doubled with 11% of youths seeking help for these symptoms.
“Having dealt with this now for two long years with this pandemic, the thing I’m noticing now, more and more, I think kids who are coming in and dealing directly with a family member that has been seriously ill, hospitalized or died from COVID. It’s really quite heartbreaking,” Douglas said.
To watch the full Morning Medical Report, go here. The Morning Medical Update is part of the Medical News Network which hosts a variety of health-related shows. The next Medical Morning Update will be on Monday, Jan. 31, at 8 a.m.