#childsafety | What Northern California pediatricians say parents can do about omicron surge



The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States is the highest its ever been, and many patients are young children. “I don’t think anyone has seen a disease like COVID-19 impact kids the way it has,” said Dr. Beatrice Tettah, who has treated children for the last 10 years in Sacramento.At Tettah’s private practice, phone calls about the omicron variant and possible exposure are now constant. Most of her patients testing positive are under the age of 5, a group medical experts say is highly vulnerable.”It has been heartbreaking at times,” Tettah said. “They didn’t ask to get exposed to it or catch it.”COVID-19 infections among U.S. children are “increasing exponentially,” with more than 580,000 cases reported just for the week of Jan. 6, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The majority of children ending up in the hospital are unvaccinated.”For kids under 5, there is no vaccine,” said Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis. “For those 5 to 11 years old, the vaccine recommendation was made only recently … the vaccination rate in those children is less than 25%, so they are vulnerable to infection also.”The surge in omicron cases is happening in the middle of cold and flu season, complicating efforts to quickly diagnose patients.”If your child has a cough or a runny nose, address those symptoms first,” Tettah said. “I wouldn’t jump to, ‘oh my gosh, it’s probably COVID-19.” Tettah added that if the child has been around someone with a known case of the coronavirus, the chances they caught the virus becomes much higher. Kids having trouble breathing should be taken to an emergency room right away.Edith Gomez knows firsthand the anxiety of having a child contract the virus. She noticed her 10-year-old son showing symptoms last week. “Fever, chills, sweating, sore throat, cough,” she listed. “It was just bad.”Her son tested positive for COVID-19. He was not vaccinated at the time, she said. KCRA 3 asked Gomez what her advice might be for other parents to avoid a similar situation. “Vaccinate and vaccinate,” Gomez said. “People say, ‘no, he got it, he’s immune.’ Yes, he is — to this variant. But I don’t know how many more variants are coming.”She plans to get her son his shots for both the flu and COVID-19 after he is released from quarantine. UC Davis Health recommends following these safety guidelines: Children ages 2 and above can wear a maskKids should also be kept away from large crowds Adults should limit opportunities for children to become exposed If your child is showing symptoms, get them tested “The best way to keep children safe is to make sure those around them are healthy and have low risk for infection,” Blumberg said.The omicron variant has proven to be far more contagious than other known strains of COVID-19 as its raced across the globe. The variant was first detected in the United States from a traveler returning from South Africa who tested positive for the virus Nov. 29. By mid-December, omicron became the dominant variant in U.S. COVID-19 cases.”It is 2 to 5 times more transmissible, so everyone will be more susceptible to infection,” Blumberg said. “The bright side is it causes more milder disease, and so what we’re seeing is less of lower respiratory disease, less pneumonia.”KCRA 3 also asked UC Davis Health about the potential long-term effects of COVID-19 for children. “We expect this variant to cause MIS-C, the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, that typically occurs 2 to 4 weeks after acute infection,” Blumberg said. “It’s rare, but I’ve seen many cases in the Sacramento area.” Blumberg added he expects to see more cases of MIS-C in the next 2 to 4 weeks. The illness can have serious impacts on the heart, blood vessels and other organs. “The other thing to be concerned about is long COVID,” the doctor said. “About 30% of children may end up with long COVID and that can impact their normal activities and opportunities for learning.” Medical experts nationwide continue to encourage vaccinations and booster shots as the most powerful form of protection against COVID-19.| RELATED | COVID-19 in California: Find testing info, omicron updates, vaccine rates and boosters

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States is the highest its ever been, and many patients are young children.

“I don’t think anyone has seen a disease like COVID-19 impact kids the way it has,” said Dr. Beatrice Tettah, who has treated children for the last 10 years in Sacramento.

At Tettah’s private practice, phone calls about the omicron variant and possible exposure are now constant. Most of her patients testing positive are under the age of 5, a group medical experts say is highly vulnerable.

“It has been heartbreaking at times,” Tettah said. “They didn’t ask to get exposed to it or catch it.”

COVID-19 infections among U.S. children are “increasing exponentially,” with more than 580,000 cases reported just for the week of Jan. 6, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The majority of children ending up in the hospital are unvaccinated.

“For kids under 5, there is no vaccine,” said Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis. “For those 5 to 11 years old, the vaccine recommendation was made only recently … the vaccination rate in those children is less than 25%, so they are vulnerable to infection also.”

The surge in omicron cases is happening in the middle of cold and flu season, complicating efforts to quickly diagnose patients.

“If your child has a cough or a runny nose, address those symptoms first,” Tettah said. “I wouldn’t jump to, ‘oh my gosh, it’s probably COVID-19.”

Tettah added that if the child has been around someone with a known case of the coronavirus, the chances they caught the virus becomes much higher.

Kids having trouble breathing should be taken to an emergency room right away.

Edith Gomez knows firsthand the anxiety of having a child contract the virus. She noticed her 10-year-old son showing symptoms last week.

“Fever, chills, sweating, sore throat, cough,” she listed. “It was just bad.”

Her son tested positive for COVID-19. He was not vaccinated at the time, she said.

KCRA 3 asked Gomez what her advice might be for other parents to avoid a similar situation.

“Vaccinate and vaccinate,” Gomez said. “People say, ‘no, he got it, he’s immune.’ Yes, he is — to this variant. But I don’t know how many more variants are coming.”

She plans to get her son his shots for both the flu and COVID-19 after he is released from quarantine.

UC Davis Health recommends following these safety guidelines:

  • Children ages 2 and above can wear a mask
  • Kids should also be kept away from large crowds
  • Adults should limit opportunities for children to become exposed
  • If your child is showing symptoms, get them tested

“The best way to keep children safe is to make sure those around them are healthy and have low risk for infection,” Blumberg said.

The omicron variant has proven to be far more contagious than other known strains of COVID-19 as its raced across the globe. The variant was first detected in the United States from a traveler returning from South Africa who tested positive for the virus Nov. 29. By mid-December, omicron became the dominant variant in U.S. COVID-19 cases.

“It is 2 to 5 times more transmissible, so everyone will be more susceptible to infection,” Blumberg said. “The bright side is it causes more milder disease, and so what we’re seeing is less of lower respiratory disease, less pneumonia.”

KCRA 3 also asked UC Davis Health about the potential long-term effects of COVID-19 for children.

“We expect this variant to cause MIS-C, the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, that typically occurs 2 to 4 weeks after acute infection,” Blumberg said. “It’s rare, but I’ve seen many cases in the Sacramento area.”

Blumberg added he expects to see more cases of MIS-C in the next 2 to 4 weeks. The illness can have serious impacts on the heart, blood vessels and other organs.

“The other thing to be concerned about is long COVID,” the doctor said. “About 30% of children may end up with long COVID and that can impact their normal activities and opportunities for learning.”

Medical experts nationwide continue to encourage vaccinations and booster shots as the most powerful form of protection against COVID-19.

| RELATED | COVID-19 in California: Find testing info, omicron updates, vaccine rates and boosters

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