The rise of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has parents and school officials on edge as thousands of children head back to the classroom for the school year.
While the coronavirus, which caused the pandemic in March 2020, spread around the world quickly, hitting mainly adults, the delta variant seems to be hitting younger people, 50 million of whom in the United States are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Scientists point out that most children with COVID-19 will not have severe symptoms, and there is not yet enough evidence to say that the delta variant causes more severe disease in children than other variants do.
However, last week, 121,427 children — from newborns to those age 19 — were diagnosed with the virus, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. With 23 states reporting to the AAP, children accounted for between 1.6% and 3.5% of hospitalizations in those states.
The delta variant is believed to be responsible for 93% of the COVID-19 infections overall in the U.S., with pockets of the country seeing the variant responsible for 98% of cases.
According to Dr. James Versalovic of Texas Children’s Hospital, his staff is seeing symptoms of the delta variant that are somewhat different in children and adolescents than what they have seen in adults.
“We are seeing more upper respiratory congestion, congestive features and less prominence of loss of taste and smell, at least initially, Versalovic writes in the hospital’s blog.
“Also, similar symptoms that have been apparent throughout the pandemic continue to be the case in children and adolescents, like fever, fatigue, and a variety of upper respiratory symptoms. Any child who has symptoms consistent with an upper respiratory tract infection should be evaluated for COVID-19.”
Dr. Inci Yildirim, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious diseases specialist and a vaccinologist, said she has seen different symptoms with the delta virus, as well.
“It seems like cough and loss of smell are less common. And headache, sore throat, runny nose, and fever are present based on the most recent surveys in the UK,” she said.
Dr. Michael Grosso, the chief medical officer and chair of pediatrics at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital, told Healthline he was seeing fever and cough as the main symptoms of COVID-19 in adolescents.
“It’s a little too soon to see high quality studies in the pediatric literature reflecting the current rise in the delta variant,” said Grosso.
“The most common symptoms in children and teens seem to be fever and cough, with nasal symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, and rash happening much less often,” Grosso added.
Should you get your child tested?
“The Delta variant is more contagious. That’s why you’re seeing it more in children,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told Healthline.
“Get your child tested if they have upper respiratory symptoms,” said Offit.
Among 11 states reporting testing numbers to the AAP, children made up 10.9%-20.6% of total cumulated state tests, and 4.7%-17.7% of children in those states tested positive.
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