During IDWeek, Arkansas health officials released COVID-19 case data that show the devastating impact the delta variant has had on the state’s children.
According to Michael Cima, Ph.D., MPH, State epidemiologist for the Arkansas Department of Health, and colleagues, despite the fact that the number of pediatric COVID-19 cases was fewer in July than in January, hospitalizations and other signs of severe disease increased dramatically, per Healio.
Cima collaborated on the study with José R. Romero, MD, the state’s secretary of health, and Donald E. Warden, MPH, another epidemiologist in the department, both of whom are members of the Infectious Diseases in Children Editorial Board. During a presentation, Cima stated that the delta variant became the prevalent circulating COVID19 in Arkansas in June and early July.
Furthermore, growing evidence suggests that the delta variant is not only significantly more infectious than the next most infectious variant of concern, but it’s also potentially more virulent, so it’s only natural to wonder how it affects the juvenile population, according to Cima.
COVID-19 Cases Decreased But Hospitalization Increased
The researchers looked at pediatric records from three months in Arkansas during the COVID-19 pandemic, which they dubbed “important inflection points”: July 2020, January 2021, and July 2021. According to Cima, they looked at hospitalization and ICU utilization rates, mechanical ventilation use, and “to a lesser extent,” multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
Conforming to the data, pediatric COVID-19 cases were 3,268 in July 2020, 11,735 in January 2021, and 8,031 in July 2021. Despite roughly 32% fewer instances in July 2021 than in January, Cima and colleagues found 42 percent more hospitalizations (105 vs. 74), 69 percent more ICU admissions (18 vs. 11), and a 300 percent increase in the usage of mechanical ventilation.
According to Cima, the number of PICU beds available in the state is in the single digits. He also mentioned that the state saw fewer MIS-C cases throughout the summer but that it was probable that instances may arise because infection and MIS-C symptoms typically take time to develop.