Doctors weigh in on possible impact of COVID-19 variants on children

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Posted at 5:55 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 17:55:46-05

TAMPA, Fla.  — Florida hit more than 400 COVID-19 variant cases this week, with mounting concern from health experts over the growing spread. Doctors are keeping a close eye on the spread of variants, as well as any potential impacts on children.

As of last Thursday, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports more than three million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We have seen a mild rise in the number of cases we’re seeing in children,” said Dr. Joseph Perno, the Chief Medical Officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “It’s hard to know, is that from the variants? Is it just from community disease being a little higher than it had been previously in the year?”

The spread of variants in Florida is under close watch. The Sunshine State is currently reporting 416 confirmed variant cases, according to CDC data.

“We believe to know, we believe that the variants spread a little bit easier, and if they spread easier in adults, theoretically, they should spread easier in children,” said Perno.

The CDC says scientists are working to learn more about how easily variants spread and whether they could cause more severe illnesses. While fewer kids have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, the CDC reminds people that children can be infected with the virus and can get sick from COVID-19.

ABC Action News asked Dr. Perno about the concern for children, if variants could spread more in adults.

“We know that there is a big condition that we all worry about as pediatricians, [which] is the multi-inflammatory syndrome in children,” said Dr. Perno. “The more COVID that spreads, whether it's [the] traditional variant or the new variants, the more likely these kids are being exposed to the virus, the more children that may end up with this multi-inflammatory [syndrome] which can be very, very significant.”

Dr. Perno explained fortunately, he’s not seeing an increase in hospitalizations or ICU cases. His message to parents is to keep up with masking, hand washing and social distancing.

“We don’t want this to become a pediatric disease. I don’t want to see more children in my ER, in my ICU,” said Perno. “We’ve been fortunate up to this point. We hope the variants follow the similar pattern, but we just don’t know because we haven’t seen enough of it at this time.”