EUGENE, Ore. -- The surge in COVID-19 cases is straining hospitals all over the state, including in our area. But now there's a new type of patient that's showing up in larger and larger numbers: children.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, nearly 500 children in Oregon 5 years old and younger tested positive for COVID-19 during the week of Aug. 15. And more than 200,000 kids were infected across the United States just a few days before school.
Dr. Serena Black, a PeaceHealth pediatrician, told KEZI two to three children are coming to RiverBend Hospital with COVID-19 each week.
"We are seeing very high fevers that can last for many days. We are seeing kids with coughs, runny noses, and sometimes kids that need oxygen to help them breathe comfortably," Black said. "We are seeing kids that are fatigued and not eating or drinking well, so sometimes they get dehydration associated with that."
She said up until recently, it was rare to see children who are COVID-positive in the hospital.
In fact, between March 2020 and June 2021, fewer than 10 COVID-positive children were admitted to RiverBend Hospital.
"It's not surprising given that we know that this variant is much more contagious. It's impacting people of all ages. Certainly those who are not vaccinated are in a greater risk population," Black said.
Dr. Patrick Luedtke with Lane County Public Health also said this isn't a surprise because kids are returning to school, but we need to be more careful.
"I think it's also important to note that there is not a vaccine available for this age group yet. We hope it's going to come, maybe in the second half in October," Luedtke said. "If all the timelines hold up, Pfizer will submit for their vaccine for age five and above."
That doesn't mean that the children's vaccine will be the same as adults' because children have unique immune systems and metabolisms.
Black said researchers must be very careful and deliberate with how they treat kids.
"To have something approved that hasn't really yet been well tested in a pediatric population is not something we are comfortable with, and the federal government isn't comfortable with," Black said. "So, it has required real trials of kids out there in decent numbers receiving the vaccine potentially in lower doses than the adults."
But health officials said the good news right now is that pediatric patients are recovering quickly from this virus.