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Head of Wolfson PICU expects numbers of children with COVID to keep climbing

parents are worried about the rising COVID-19 cases in children as seven Jacksonville children have died since the pandemic started.
parents are worried about the rising COVID-19 cases in children as seven Jacksonville children have died since the pandemic started.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The news that seven children have died in Jacksonville from COVID-19 since the pandemic began has many parents concerned.

The head of the pediatric ICU at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, where those children died, joined The Morning Show on Friday to share more about what he’s seeing with children who are being hospitalized with coronavirus.

As of Friday morning, 12 children were in the Jacksonville hospital with COVID-19, and four were in the ICU. Two children were admitted to Wolfson with COVID on Thursday, according to Baptist Health.

While overall numbers of adult COVID patients are leveling off, Dr. Thomas Nakagawa, the medical director of Wolfson’s PICU, said that’s not the case with kids.

“We have seen really a significant increase in numbers of children of all ages from newborns to adolescence, 18 years of age being admitted with COVID. This includes healthy children, children with underlying medical conditions and we expect to see increased numbers of children with COVID,” Nakagawa said.

That is troubling for many. For the most part, children can overcome the virus. But what doctors are learning now is there are long-term implications.

“The long-term effects that we are actually seeing from COVID are what we call a long-COVID that can result in residual damage to the lungs, to breathing difficulties and that could alter brain function, which people have termed brain fog, continued loss of taste and smell,” Nakagawa said. “There can continue to be inflammation of the heart which can also be long-lasting.”

That inflammation also manifests in children as multisystem inflammatory syndrome or MIS-C, which occurs three to four weeks after the initial infection.

“Those kids can actually get very, very sick. They present with heart failure because of the inflammation of the heart. They can have gastrointestinal problems, and they can have rashes, and we do see those kids,” Nakagawa said. “We’ve seen a significant number of those children at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.”

According to the CDC, the symptoms of MIS-C include a fever and any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Abdominal (gut) pain
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Chest tightness/pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling extra tired
  • Headache
  • Low blood pressure
  • Neck pain
  • Rash
  • Vomiting

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.