And, as more children are diagnosed with the illness, doctors are encountering more with complications than they have so far in the 6-month-old pandemic, experts say.
Jy’Merius Glynn at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. He was severely ill with COVID-19 but is doing much better. CONTRIBUTED
After emergency room doctors in Rome, Georgia, stabilized Hunt’s son, the teenager was transferred to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. In the intensive care unit, he was placed on a ventilator and underwent dialysis.
“They were the worst 15 days of my life,” said Hunt. It’s unclear if her son’s epilepsy played a role in him becoming so ill.
Such dire pediatric cases have been extremely rare. Most children who get COVID-19 don’t get critically ill with the disease. Many don’t experience any symptoms at all.
But “what has happened is there is strength in numbers,” said Dr. Mark Cameron, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine. “And I say that in the most sadly ironic ways. What might have been rare and uncommon a couple months ago is now a clear and present danger.”
Children were largely cocooned at home during the early months of the pandemic, but now are going to schools, football fields and swimming pools. And it’s becoming clear that children can catch and spread the virus more than previously thought, according to experts.
Research suggests as many as 45% of children who get infected with the coronavirus are asymptomatic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children’s symptoms tend to be mild and cold-like. Healthy children are more likely to experience serious complications from the flu than COVID-19, according to the CDC.
In Georgia, children have represented only about 1.2% of total hospitalizations.
Four children in Georgia have died from complications related to COVID-19: a 7-year old Savannah boy who had a fever-fueled seizure while in the bathtub and drowned; a 15-year-old boy from Gwinnett County with underlying conditions; a 14-year-old Habersham County girl who suffered from a chronic condition; and a 17-year-old boy from Fulton County who suffered from a chronic condition.
Children with underlying medical conditions — including diabetes, chronic lung disease, sickle cell anemia and obesity — are at a higher risk for severe cases of COVID-19.
In May, doctors started seeing a new and extremely rare complication of the coronavirus infection in children called MIS-C, which stands for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. It manifests roughly two to four weeks after a coronavirus infection. Experts suspect that children who develop this syndrome were exposed to the virus and that their bodies mounted an exaggerated immune response.
Symptoms are similar to toxic shock and Kawasaki disease: fever, rashes, swollen glands and, in severe cases, heart inflammation.
So far, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has treated about 30 children with…