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Louisville doctors warn of potential long-term COVID complications for unvaccinated children

Four children playing outside.
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Doctors urge COVID-19 vaccinations for children 5 and older, to help prevent long-term or serious side effects from the disease.

Kentucky doctors say getting children vaccinated is the best way to prevent long-term and serious effects from COVID-19. 

Dr. Kristina Bryant, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Norton Children’s Hospital, said they’ve treated 125 children in their long-haul COVID clinic since the pandemic began. 

She said out of every 100 kids who get COVID, one or two will be hospitalized, and some will need intensive care. 

One out of every 3,200 will develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome from COVID, which can be life threatening. 

And even kids with mild cases can have long-haul symptoms, like fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety and depression. 

“The big takeaway is that while many kids have mild or asymptomatic disease, this is still an illness that you don't want your kids to get if you can help it,” Bryant said during a weekly COVID briefing with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. 

She said she knows some parents who have not gotten their children vaccinated still have questions. She said they should reach out and get the information they need to make informed choices. 

“I understand some parents didn't want to be first in line and that's OK,” she said. “But now, across the country more than 16 million kids 12 to 17 have had the vaccine, more than 8 million kids 5 to 11.”  

Omicron BA.2 variant detected in Louisville 

Dr. SaraBeth Hartlage, associate medical director at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, confirmed that local researchers have identified the BA.2 omicron strain in Louisville wastewater. 

Hartlage said the strain, which is more contagious than the original omicron strain but not more severe, was detected in small amounts last week. It has not shown up this week in wastewater samples this week, and no patient samples have shown the variant. 

She said she and other health officials are keeping an eye on it. 

“If we don't have it yet, we will have BA.2 around before too long,” she said.
“As we learned with BA.1 and omicron overall, just having a large number of cases is a significant strain on the hospital systems. A small percentage of people will get very sick.”

Cases going down at the metro, state level

Both local and state health officials are reporting a continued decline in COVID cases and positivity rate. 

The Kentucky Department for Public Health reported 969 new daily cases as of yesterday – 191 of them were people under 18. 

Jefferson County had 7,106 cases reported last week, but Hartlage said part of that is catching up after lags in reporting. The real number of new cases is around 3,600, she said.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.