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Banner Health hospitals seeing spike in children with COVID-19

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

PHOENIX — The state’s largest hospital network is seeing a rise in children hospitalized with the coronavirus.

“Between October and this month, we’ve seen a five to six fold increase in the hospitalizations,” Dr. David Moromisato, chief medical officer at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

Banner hospitals project they’ll admit 396 children with COVID-19 this month. That’s a big jump from October when they had 77 hospitalized children with the disease.

This comes as a report released last week by JAMA Pediatrics shows Arizona had the worst per-capita rate of children hospitalized with the coronavirus from May to November.

Moromisato said the increase “reflects what’s happening in the community” with COVID-19.

“Children are in the same community as the adults,” he said. “So it wouldn’t be surprising that with the exponential increase in the adults with COVID-19, we’re going to see an exponential increase in children as well.”

Arizona currently leads in the nation in cases and has the second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths per capita over the last seven days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have started receding after spiking to record levels last week.

Moromisato said children aren’t as susceptible to severe illness from the coronavirus as adults, but there are children who get just as sick as adults. And he said it affects Latino, Native American and African American children the most.

“We are seeing children in the hospital with critical illness and in the intensive care unit with life-threatening disease,” he said. “They come in with COVID pneumonia just like adults do when they get severe.”

Although children with underlying health conditions are at increased risk, they’re not the only ones ending up in Banner hospitals for severe illness from COVID-19.

Moromisato said he estimates two-thirds of hospitalized children were previously healthy.

Some of the children hospitalized are also getting diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C. It causes different body parts to become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, and gastrointestinal organs.

Children get MIS-C several weeks after they contracted COVID-19 or were exposed to it.

“Even though it’s not as common, we’re still seeing it and it’s life-threatening,” Moromisato said.

He said parents should seek medical care if their children start showing symptoms of MIS-C, which include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and feeling extra tired.

“The earlier we catch this, the more quickly we can provide medications and therapies that will decrease the effects of the inflammation,” Moromisato said.

He also stressed parents should keep following public health protocols to protect themselves and their children from the coronavirus.

“I know everybody is so weary of the last 10 months,” Monromisato said. “But we need to just keep it up a while longer and keep masking, keep up the social distancing. It really does work.”

For Arizona vaccine information, visit azdhs.gov/findvaccine.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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