A Corewell Health East physician is the lead author of an 18-month study that indicates that if COVID-19 cases among children were combined with flu or respiratory syncytial virus, severe outcomes more than doubled.
Dr. Amit Bahl is an emergency physician with Corewell Health East, formerly Beaumont Health. Bahl and his research team examined more than 4,500 emergency department visits at Corewell Health hospitals between January 1, 2021 and June 16, 2022.
Infants and toddlers were at higher risk of serious complications than older children, Bahl said.
“Younger kids who were infected with multiple viruses at the same time demonstrated a significantly higher need for oxygen therapy and ICU-level care,” Bahl said.
“More than 45% needed this type of care compared to just 22% of the patients who were sick with one virus. Given the higher-than-normal spread of RSV and influenza this year, it is especially important for providers to recognize this increased risk when they are treating patients,” he said.
While severe outcomes increased significantly in co-infection cases, overall deaths remained relatively low among pediatric patients.
The study doesn’t address the true impact of vaccinations for children because they weren’t available for pediatric patients for a portion of the study period
“When isolating adolescents who had access to vaccination earlier than the other age groups, it is clear that proportionately there were fewer Emergency Department encounters, hospitalizations and severe outcomes in this older age group over the course of the pandemic,” Bahl said
The biggest takeaway for parents is to take preventive measures, which include vaccination, he said.
“Our ERs are full again with pediatric patients suffering from respiratory illnesses,” Bahl said. “The COVID vaccines are protective against severe outcomes, and with these co-infections rampant, the more protection our kids have, the better for them and the rest of the population.”
He reminded parents to keep their children home if they’re sick and practice good hand washing habits.
Corewell Health East operates hospitals in Royal Oak, Troy, Farmington Hills, Dearborn, Taylor, Trenton, Wayne and Grosse Pointe.