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Tampa Bay area doctors shed light on omicron's impact on children

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Posted at 6:28 PM, Dec 27, 2021

As concern rises over COVID-19 cases and the omicron variant, so does worry over the variant’s impact on children. Local pediatricians are sharing what they’re seeing in communities in the Tampa Bay area now and what families can do to help protect their kids.

“We are seeing that more cases are being diagnosed in children who present to the emergency room. Most of those children do go home,” said Dr. Juan Dumois, a Pediatric Infectious Diseases physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “We are having a few that are being hospitalized, so the numbers are just starting to increase.”

ABC Action News spoke to Dr. Dumois about COVID’s current impact on kids as the omicron variant continues to spread across the country.

“It seems that omicron is affecting children about the same as delta, that we’re not seeing a sudden increase in severity of illness caused by omicron, we’re just seeing an increase in the number of cases, and because omicron seems to be so much more contagious than delta, we expect to see those numbers continue to rise,” said Dumois.

With children under five unable to get the COVID vaccine right now, Dumois says the most important way parents can keep kids under five safe, is to be vaccinated themselves.

“If they’re protected, they’re less likely to infect their kids who are not in school right now,” said Dr. Dumois.

“It’s definitely more contagious, so it’s easier for kids to get sick,” said Dr. Lisa Cronin with Children’s Medical Center.

Cronin says with hospitalizations, they’re still very low. But she reminds us that when we’ve had other peaks during the pandemic, we weren’t really seeing any other illnesses, like flu.

“Now over the course of this fall, all of the other germs are back. We’re seeing relatively normal numbers in terms of flu season this year. We’re seeing relatively normal numbers in terms of RSV this year, so the hospitals are filling up with non-COVID things, which makes me very nervous for the coming weeks because if we do have patients that need to be hospitalized for breathing issues or dehydration or whatever it may be, I do worry about accessibility to care for them,” said Cronin.

Doctors explain masking is important. Cronin says get your kids vaccinated if they’re able to and also stresses the importance of testing, saying if your child has a fever, cough, congestion, or other symptoms, they should get tested.

“We have to know who is spreading the disease to shut this wave down as quickly as we possibly can,” said Dr. Cronin.