U.S. pediatric COVID hospitalizations have surged since Delta became predominant, but a new study suggests that fears the variant causes more severe disease are unfounded, reports Medical Xpress. The health agency analysed hospital records from across an area covering around 10 percent of the U.S. population between March 1, 2020, and August 14, 2021. This covered the period before the emergence of Delta, the most contagious strain to date, and after it became dominant, from June 20 onwards. Weekly hospitalizations of people aged 0-17 were at their lowest between June 12 and July 3, at 0.3 per 100,000, before rising to 1.4 per 100,000 in the week ending August 14; a 4.7-fold increase. Pediatric hospitalizations reached their all-time peak of 1.5 per 100,000 in the week leading up to January 9, when the U.S. experienced its winter wave that was driven by the Alpha variant.
Consistent with prior research, children aged 12-17 and 0-4 are at higher risk of COVID hospitalization than those aged 5-11. After examining 3,116 hospital records from the period before Delta, and comparing them to 164 records during the Delta period, the percentage of children with severe indicators was found to not differ greatly. Specifically, the percentage of hospitalized patients admitted to intensive care was 26.5 pre-Delta and 23.2 post; the percentage placed on ventilators was 6.1 pre-Delta and 9.8 post; and the percent who died was 0.7 pre-Delta and 1.8 post. These differences did not rise to the level of statistical significance. The finding comes with the important caveat that because the number of hospitalizations in the post-Delta period is small, more data will need to accrue for scientists to gain greater confidence about the conclusion.