The number of children testing positive for Covid-19 at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is “incredibly high,” Dr. Larry Kociolek, an attending physician and infectious disease specialist there, told CNN Monday.
Case numbers are three times as high as the hospital’s previous peak in December of 2020, Kociolek said.
“Hospitalizations have quadrupled over our baseline over the past week,” Kociolek told CNN. “Fortunately, a lot of these infections are either mild infections or incidental positives, since we screen all children before procedures and at the time of admission, and we’ve actually not seen any change in the number of children being admitted to the ICU.”
Half of the hospitalizations were in children under the age of five, Kociolek said. Those children are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
“I think we’re definitely seeing the impact of vaccines in kids older than 5. The kids that are hospitalized are essentially all unvaccinated,” Kociolek said.
Kociolek said about 7% of the kids who test positive don’t have any symptoms at all. The sharp rise in cases shows how contagious the Omicron variant is.
“Our community activity just shut up very, very quickly,” Kociolek said.
Kociolek said the hospital is also concerned about a surge in multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, known as MIS-C, in the near future. MIS-C is a rare, but serious Covid-19 related condition that can affect kids. The condition typically occurs after there has been a surge of Covid-19 cases. Even children who have had mild Covid-19 cases can develop MIS-C, usually several weeks after infection.
“We did not see an increase in MIS-C following the Delta peak, but there’s reason to believe the Delta variant might be different than the Omicron variant in terms of causing MIS-C, so we are cautiously observing these cases,” Kociolek said.
Kociolek said it is also important for parents to keep in mind that even mild Covid-19 cases can be contagious. To keep schools open, parents have to remember to keep their sick children home from school or any other activity. He also suggested parents may want to get their children tested or use a home test before they return to school. “That way you can ensure that they’re not carrying Covid-19 back to the classroom,” Kociolek said.