INDIANAPOLIS — As coronavirus cases in children continue to surge, other respiratory illnesses like RSV and influenza are not as prevalent this winter, according to one Indianapolis infectious diseases expert.
Dr. John Christenson with Riley Hospital for Children said there have not been any confirmed lab cases of RSV or influenza in the past several months at the hospital. He said that is thanks in part to masks, social distancing and hand washing.
While this mirrors what was seen in the Southern Hemisphere, the Medical Director of Infection Prevention said it's “very unusual” to not see any cases of RSV by this point in the season, as well as flu cases.
“I think we will continue to see less influenza and RSV and other respiratory viruses compared to years past. However, sadly to say, we’re going to see a lot more Coronavirus in the weeks to come,” Christenson said. He continued, “The holidays have been problematic because a lot of people instead of staying home have been traveling, so there's going to be a lot more transmission or Coronavirus. I think we're going to see a lot more Coronavirus in not only in adults but also in children. I think we need to brace ourselves for the next month and see what happens.”
Christenson added Riley is seeing a “record number” of Coronavirus and MIS-C admissions. During the initial surge, he said Riley saw three-to-four patients with COVID, but now is seeing three times that number in the past few weeks.
As for MIS-C, the rare Kawasaki-like illness found in children, Christenson said the numbers “have blossomed.”
On Wednesday, state officials detailed a total of 34 cases statewide of the rare illness. Riley Hospital for Children has treated 21 of those confirmed cases. A hospital spokesperson said six more cases are being reviewed. Currently, three children are at Riley Hospital for Children with suspected MIS-C.
Christenson urged parents to be vigilant for signs of severe symptoms as this respiratory season continues.
“We still don't know very much about [MIS-C]," he said. "It resembles Kawasaki in some ways. But in many other ways it differs from Kawasaki. It tends to be seen in older children, it tends to have, you know, a propensity of causing problems with the heart. And, and no doubt that some of the children are very sick. Now the good news is that the treatment is very similar to what we use for Kawasaki, except that we use a lot more steroids in patient with MIS-C. And the good news is that most of them respond very well to the treatment and are able to go home."
When will children get the COVID vaccine?
What is clear when it comes to the vaccine rollout is children will have to wait. Christenson said the biggest challenge with vaccines is the fact adults are the ones initially tested.
Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is currently authorized for those 16 and older, while the Moderna vaccine is for Americans 18 and older.
“Eventually, studies will be continued in regard to children initially started in adolescence, and eventually in younger children, and then perhaps in several months from now," he said. "We will have indications where we can give it to young children. But right now, I think it's going to be months before we see that that's the routine vaccination of young children."
Recently — testing in children began for both vaccines.