Since the beginning of September there have been 300 cases of the coronavirus among children, ages zero to 18, according to the Allegheny County Health Department.
While severe COVID-19 illness in kids is rare, the health department warns that cases among children will increase if the virus becomes more widespread. A total of 14 children in Allegheny County have been hospitalized since the start of the pandemic.
The department says that statewide there have more than 17,000 cases of COVID-19 among kids, birth to 19. That number includes 49 who have also had multisystem inflammatory syndrome. The rare complication of COVID-19 causes various body parts to become inflamed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it can affect the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.
“This is a very serious and can be life-threatening illness. And we really don’t know the long-term consequences yet of having COVID-19 in childhood or [multisystem inflammatory syndrome] in childhood,” health department director Dr. Debra Bogen said on Wednesday.
Though children are less likely to become ill due to the coronavirus, Bogen warned they can still spread it to more medically vulnerable members of the community, such as older family members.
“In our case investigations we have definitely seen outbreaks that involve children,” said Bogen. “In one outbreak that we’ve been monitoring for the last three weeks started with a teen and has now spread to 27 people.”
Bogen said families should consider forming so-called quarantine pods. Members of a pod socialize exclusively with each other, which lowers the risk of coronavirus exposure. When a child has a playdate with people outside of their pod, it’s recommended that they stay outside, wear a mask and wash their hands frequently.