Valley Children's Hospital warns of dangerous COVID-19 complications in kids

Kids in the newborn-to-17 age range make up 8.7% of California's COVID-19 cases. In Fresno County, they make up 12% of total positive cases.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Valley Children's Hospital doctors are highlighting concerning COVID-19 numbers in Central Valley kids.

"Children are affected despite what some people believe, and pediatric cases have been rising," says Dr. Nael Mhaissen, Medical Director, Pediatric Infectious Diseases.

Kids in the newborn-to-17 age range make up 8.7% of California's COVID-19 cases. In Fresno County, they make up 12% of total positive cases.

Dr. David Christensen, Chief Physician Executive, says this could be because many people in the Valley can't afford socially distant living arrangements.

"I think in our area, unfortunately, in the Central Valley, we have a lot of families that can't afford space and live in tight communities and housing that doesn't allow for that," he said.

The hospital has conducted almost 6,500 tests; 8% have come back positive, 69 of which required hospitalization.

Dr. Christensen says the way numbers are trending, he doesn't think schools are ready for in-person learning.

"We know it's important. We understand it," he says. "But with a large pandemic not showing any improvement right outside our door right now, we just thought it was the wrong time."

Christensen points to a study that shows kids up to nine years old with COVID will infect about 5.3% of the people they come in contact with. But with older kids, that statistic spikes up. They'll infect 18.6% of the people they contact. At Valley Children's, they've seen cases in kids as young as three weeks old.

Doctors say it's not just the virus itself that can be harmful to kids but there are also complications from the infection, specifically multi-system inflammatory syndrome, also called MIS. Valley Chidren's has seen eight cases of MIS.

"It's thought to be an inflammatory response to the COVID-19 infection with manifestations that present the week after the infection," said Dr. Mhaissen. "It could infect, like the name suggests, different systems, different organs in the body. Many times it can be serious enough to require admission to ICU."

Doctors say they have had some success using Remdesivir as treatment. Right now, the hospital has enough of the medication left to treat five more patients.

Valley Children's Hospital is continuing to take on children from hospitals across the Central Valley in order to free up their beds for adult COVID-19 patients.
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