Vast majority of Arizona kids have had COVID-19, according to CDC
PHOENIX — The vast majority of Arizona children have been infected with COVID-19, according to a recent survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The survey shows about 84% of Arizona kids between 6 months and 17 years old have tested positive for the virus. That’s slightly higher than the national average of nearly 80%.
“Obviously it does sound like it’s a high percentage of patients who’ve had the infection,” said Dr. Wassim Ballan, an infectious disease specialist for Phoenix Children’s. “At the same time, it’s not fully surprising.”
Ballan pointed out the omicron variant led to a huge number of kids testing positive earlier this year.
“Keep in mind also that a lot of children actually have a mild infection from COVID-19, and they might have had the infection without even getting tested to confirm that’s what they had,” he added.
Most kids with COVID-19 who are symptomatic generally show cold or flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough, congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. Some also require hospitalized.
Ballan said he has seen young COVID-19 patients be admitted to the hospital with upper airway issues. That includes croup, which causes swelling and inflammation of the upper part of a child’s airways and can lead to difficulty breathing and a barking-like cough.
The CDC survey comes as the latest subvariant of omicron, known as BA.5, is now the dominant strain of the coronavirus in Arizona and across the country. It also spread more easily than previous variants.
Ballan said he’s concerned the recent return to school will lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases among children. He said that’s one of the reasons why he encourages parents to get their kids vaccinates against the virus.
Children as young as 6 months old are eligible for vaccination.
The most recent data by the Arizona Department of Health Services shows nearly 56% of children in the state ages 12-15 have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Among children 5 to 11 years old, nearly 34% have gotten at least one dose.
About 19,800 children 6 months through 4 years old have also received at least one dose. However, it’s difficult to know what share of that age group has gotten vaccinated since the state health department’s population denominators don’t have estimates for children ages 6 months to 1 year.
Ballan noted children who’ve had COVID-19 develop natural immunity against the virus. But he still encourages parents to get them vaccinated.
“Having the infection one time doesn’t protect indefinitely against future infections,” he said. “We also cannot predict the course the patient is going to have with their second infection.”
Ballan said he also wants parents who haven’t had their kids vaccinated to consider how getting infected with COVID-19 “is going to affect their life and the life of the people that they live with at home in terms of missing school or having to miss work to stay with a sick child.”