How COVID-19 is affecting Utah’s children

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Most children who become infected with COVID-19 only have a mild illness. But healthcare professionals said there’s still a risk for hospitalization and even death.

Children who catch the coronavirus may experience a cough, fever, sore throat, fatigue, etc. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A child’s symptoms can be mild and cold-like or they may not show symptoms at all.

Dr. Andrew Pavia with the University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital said kids typically get over the illness within a week.

But he said some may need extra care.

“About 1 out of 100 kids who get infected will end up in the hospital. If they end up in the hospital, about 1 out of 3 can end up in the ICU,” Dr. Pavia said.

Johns Hopkins Medicine reports parents should call 911 if a child has difficulty breathing, has bluish lips, can’t keep liquids down, is confused, or can’t wake up.

The Utah Department of Health reports that throughout the pandemic, almost 500 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19; and in children ages 1-to-14, less than five have died.

“One death that’s preventable in a child is too many,” Dr. Pavia said.

Dr. Pavia hopes to prevent more families from losing a loved one, encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated.

“While death is really not that common, it can happen,” he said. “And if you compare COVID-19 to other diseases for which we gladly immunize our kids, it’s actually a more severe, more common disease.”

Rich Lakin, the state immunization director, said vaccination is off to a good start for 5-to-11-year-olds.

While more data is needed to know if the shot will lessen the number of cases, Lakin said he’s confident cases will begin to drop.   

“We are not seeing as many cases of 12-to-18-year-olds, as we are seeing of 5-to-11-year-olds. I can make the assumption that vaccination is making a difference cause we’re not seeing as many cases,” he said.

State data reports 7% of Utah’s 5-to-11-year-olds have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Lakin said once 25% of this age group are vaccinated, data will begin to reveal if the shot decreases the number of cases.

Lakin said vaccination is an individual choice. He encourages parents to talk with their child’s pediatrician and to research the vaccine from trusted sources like coronavirus.utah.gov.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports as of November 11th, over 6.6 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. The organization reports COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths make up a small percentage of cases.

“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children,” the AAP writes. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”

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