January in Kansas sees record number of children hospitalized with COVID

Screenshot/Kansas Department of Health and Environment
·2 min read

January has been the worst month for Kansas children being hospitalized with COVID-19, according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment data.

KDHE data shows 40 or more children hospitalized every day from Jan. 3 through Thursday, the most recent available data. It only surpassed 40 three other days throughout the nearly two years of the pandemic. Before the 25 days in January, it happened once each in July and August 2020 and once more in September 2021.

January also appears to have set a record of 98 children hospitalized Jan. 14, surpassing the previous record of 91 on Aug. 2, 2020. Only about half as many hospitals were reporting figures in August 2020.

Doctors have attributed the spike to the highly contagious Omicron variant.

The variant has also led to an increase in multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children or MIS-C, according to Dr. Angela Myers, infectious diseases director at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

“It’s a relatively uncommon complication of having a COVID infection,” she said Friday. “We’ve seen this uptick this past month due to the Omicron surge, where we really didn’t with Delta.”

Children with mild and asymptomatic infections can have MIS-C, she said. MIS-C is an inflammatory reaction that can occur a few weeks after being infected. It can cause a fever, rash and diarrhea.

January brought a record number of patients to the children’s hospital. The previous record was 22 patients during the Delta surge last summer. There have been 30 or more throughout all of January, she said.

An Ascension Via Christi spokesperson said their Wichita hospitals saw a spike in children hospitalized with COVID in December and January.

One of the eight child deaths in the state during the pandemic also occurred in January. Another was reported in January but occurred in October, according to a KDHE spokesperson. People who died of COVID-19 in Kansas range in age from 0-107, KDHE data shows.

Myers said a majority of the deaths in children, like adults, have been ones with underlying health conditions.

Before Omicron, underlying health conditions often also caused the hospitalizations, she said, adding it would be teenagers who are obese. The variant led to even younger children getting sick, with the hospital now seeing children as young as three months old.

“One death is too many, especially when we have (a) vaccine that can prevent infection in kids 5 and above and hopefully soon for younger children as well,” she said.

Demographic data isn’t available in age ranges that perfectly match the age groups for vaccine data. It appears less than 25% of children ages 5 to 11 have gotten vaccinated since it became available to that age group at the end of October. The 12 to 17 age group is just over 50%, Myers said.

“We’re not where we should be,” she said, “we’re not where we want to be.”

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