Childhood hospitalizations increase with Omicron, but rate remains low

Health officials say the rise in numbers underscores the need for everyone around children to be immunized and for children eligible for vaccination to receive a shot.

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The number of children infected with COVID-19 rose in January as cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant spiked in British Columbia, according to provincial statistics.

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Although the hospitalization rate remains low and lower than all other age groups, health officials are watching the trend closely, especially among children under five for whom a COVID vaccine has not been found. been approved.

Figures published by the province for the week of January 6 to 12 show that nine children under the age of five have been admitted to hospital, with two others in each of the age groups 5-11 and 12-17. The numbers are similar to those seen since late December, about twice as high as in the previous six weeks, according to a review of data from the BC Center for Disease Control.

Health officials say the rise in numbers underscores the need for everyone around children to be immunized and for children eligible for vaccination to receive a shot.

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“It shows that this virus is spreading widely in our community and how important it is for all of us who come into contact with young people, especially those aged zero to four, to ensure that we are vaccinated to protect them as best we can. against transmission,” said BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

She also said that Children with mild illness can return to school or daycare as soon as their symptoms resolve, whether or not they test positive for COVID.

“I know it’s different from where we’ve tried to make sure we keep COVID out of everything, but the reality is we don’t transmit as much if we’re well, so those are the things we need to examine now.

So far, the recent rise in cases has not resulted in the end of children in intensive care.

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There have only been two child deaths in British Columbia during the pandemic.

Henry said COVID in children appears to be more of a respiratory disease triggering asthma, airway disease and bronchiolitis, similar to what is found in some other jurisdictions.

Omicron has also resulted in thousands of hospitalizations in American children.

Henry noted that there are also other viruses circulating this year that are causing illness in young and old people in long-term care.

BC Children’s Hospital recently released information about the effects of Omicron on children. The hospital said as of Thursday it had 11 children who had tested positive for COVID.

However, about a quarter were admitted specifically for COVID, while the rest were hospitalized for other illnesses and tested positive.

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The hospital noted that the data changes daily, but, consistently throughout the pandemic, a high proportion of hospitalized children who test positive for COVID are admitted for other reasons.

BC Children’s said it was monitoring the COVID situation in Canada and around the world.

“Ontario and Quebec appear to be seeing more severe illness in infants and young children, but we don’t yet know if this is because many more children are getting COVID-19 or if the proportion of children getting very sick is increasing,” noted Dr. Laura Sauvé, pediatric infectious disease specialist at BC Children’s.

“We don’t see this in British Columbia, but public health physicians and pediatricians are watching this closely,” said Sauvé, also an assistant clinical professor at the University of British Columbia’s medical school.

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Sauvé noted that while children are generally less sick from COVID than adults, there are rare instances when they can get very sick.

However, the most significant effects of the pandemic on the health of children in Canada have been their mental health, lack of school and excessive screen time, Sauvé noted. That’s why it’s so important to balance safety with maximizing bonding with other children and making sure they continue with their regular activities, she said.

Families can use the same tools that have always been used to protect themselves from COVID even though Omicron is more contagious, Sauvé said. These include having social visits outdoors, wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, washing hands and staying home when sick.

And, above all, get your children vaccinated, Suavé said.

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Children aged 5 to 11 were just approved for a vaccine in November, while the 12+ age group was approved earlier.

As of January 13, 45% of children aged 5 to 11 had received a first dose of vaccine. In the 12-17 year age group, 87% received a first dose and 83% received two doses.

With a file from the Victoria Times Colonist

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