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Is the Delta Variant a Threat to Kids?

 The latest COVID news is out of Mississippi:

This is disturbing--nobody wants to hear about kids in intensive care. But it's important to stop and think and do some research before reacting. Since I don't see any reporters asking pertinent questions, I will. 

Are the kids in ICU only because of COVID or for another illness as well? Unknown. As we saw last year, several reports of kids dying of COVID turned out to be misleading: the kids died of unrelated causes, but had a positive test for COVID. In one case, a baby that was miscarried didn't even have COVID, but its mother did.

Do these kids have comorbidities? Unknown.

Is this typical? This, we can answer: no. The CDC reports that as of July 3, there were 18 people age 0-17 in the The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET). The network represents about 10% of the US population. Therefore, we can assume there were 180 kids in the hospital with COVID in the US. That's a rate of .54 kids per million, whereas 12 kids in Mississippi is 4 per million. That's more than seven times the national rate.

Laboratory confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations by age representing ~10% of the US population.  Source: CDC.

Is it because of the delta variant? We don't know which variant the kids have, but the delta variant is the dominant one in Mississippi. Here's a graph of the hospitalizations in Mississippi over time--it doesn't look like the variant is sending many people to the hospital:

Hospitalizations Trends. Source: MS Department of Health.

The delta variant is also the main variant here in Indiana, too, and we have a more detailed hospital dashboard. Here are hospitalizations by age group for the past the months, and for comparison, the same time last year:

2021 Hospitalizations by age and sex in Indiana. Source: Regenstreif dashboard.

2020 Hospitalizations by age and sex in Indiana. Source: Regenstreif dashboard.

There were fewer kids in the hospital this year compared to the same dates last year before the delta variant existed, suggesting that kids aren't any more vulnerable to the delta variant than the original. 

The delta variant took over Scotland months ago, but they haven't had a surge in hospitalizations of kids, either. As I mentioned last month, 

Steve Turner, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health registrar and consultant paediatrician at Royal Aberdeen Children’s hospital, said, “As it stands there are very few children in hospital in Scotland and across the whole of the UK due to covid. We’re not seeing any evidence of an increase in paediatric admissions with covid. A very small number of admissions who test positive for covid is what we’d expect.

“Our experience over the last 15 months is that many children who test positive have come into hospital for something else, like broken bones. At the moment the situation in the UK is stable. The number of children in hospital with covid remains very low.”6

Sebastian Rushworth, MD recently addressed MIS-C in children. In case you missed it, 

There are around 73,000,000 children in the [US]. What that means is that the risk of a child in the US having experienced MIS-C up to now is 0,006% (one in 18,000). In other words, MIS-C is rare. And of the children who are unfortunate enough to get it, more than 99% recover. Out of 73,000,000 children in the US, only 37 have actually died of MIS-C over the course of the pandemic (one in 1,970,000).

Rushworth doesn't think COVID is a threat to children in Sweden, his home country, any more than in the US. 

The 12 Mississippi kids are in intensive care at seven times the national rate of hospitalization, and it's not because of the delta variant. There's to be more to this story than what's being told--which is very little. 

Further reading:

Update: The original tweet is unavailable because Dobbs issued a correction--but no answers to the original questions, some of which people are asking in the comments.


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