Delta Variant Causes Unprecedented COVID-19 Disease in Children

The Arkansas Health Department’s research showed that, as with the rest of the population, Delta is severely infectious for children.

COVID-19 is commonly believed to cause mild to asymptomatic cases when contracted by children (18 years of age and younger). However, the emergence of the more infectious Delta variant (B.1.617.2) as the dominant strain in Arkansas led the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to investigate whether this is still the case.

Delta did not become the leading variant in Arkansas until the first week in July 2021, but children were contracting COVID-19 at schools during the January 2021 surge even with physical mitigation measures (PMM).

ADH’s findings, presented at the virtual IDWeek conference, showed that there were 31.6% fewer pediatric COVID-19 cases in July 2021 than in January 2021 (8031 versus 11735), but pediatric hospitalization, ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, and death all peaked in July 2021.

Among children infected with the Delta variant, hospitalization was up by 41.9% (n=105), ICU admissions increased 68.6% (n=18), and ventilator use raised by 300% (n=8).

The one pediatric death recorded was the first in Arkansas since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results disproved any misconceptions about pediatric COVID-19 cases lacking severity.The ADH predicted that the July 2021 Delta outbreak would only result in more pediatric cases as schools opened in the fall, leading them to recommend schools update and reinstate their PMM efforts.