COVID-19 cases increasing in young people in the Tri-County region

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Tri-County health officials said the number of young people with COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses is on the rise.

Peoria City/County Health administrator Monica Hendrickson said as of Thursday, 38.5% of active COVID-19 cases in the Tri-County region are individuals 19 and younger.

This is about an 8% increase compared to last week.

Hendrickson is encouraging children that are eligible and able, to get vaccinated.

Michael Wells, president of OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois, said despite the increase in COVID cases, his hospital’s capacity is not being challenged.

“Unlike some of the other children’s hospitals, we have not seen a significant surge in our COVID inpatient population. Our daily average throughout the pandemic has ranged from about zero to three patients in our inpatient unit who are COVID positive,” Wells said.

Local doctors said they are noticing other viral infections like RSV and Rhinovirus are appearing earlier than normal. Typically, these occur during the winter months.

“We’re seeing those a little bit earlier now, probably because everybody is back together after a long time apart. People didn’t get exposed last year and don’t have that immunity built up,” said Dr. Keith Hanson, an OSF Pediatric Hospitalist.

If a child is experiencing symptoms of a viral illness, Hanson said it’s important that they get tested.

“It can be really hard to tell- especially those patients where, like a lot of kids do, it’s just mild illness. So it could just be fever or runny nose, cough, congestion, respiratory distress, those types of things. And it’s hard for a parent or even general pediatrician to know which virus it is, and that’s why we encourage testing so much, so we can know,” Hanson said.

Thursday, medical leaders also encouraged pregnant women to get the vaccine.

The CDC reports only slightly more than 25% of those pregnant have been vaccinated.

Jennifer Kolettis, a nurse practitioner with Heartland Health, said studies have shown pregnancy is an independent risk factor for COVID-19.

She said pregnant women are more likely to end up in the ICU, on a ventilator, or at higher risk of death.

Kolettis also said studies are finding that COVID-19 may be associated with increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes like preterm birth.

Data collected shows there is no evidence of adverse maternal or fetal effects from getting the vaccine, she said, and getting vaccinated could benefit not only the mother’s health, but also the child’s.

“I just want to encourage you to consider the fact that your baby will be born with a very immature immune system and if you get the vaccine when you are pregnant, your antibodies are passed to the baby through the placenta, as well as through your breast milk, offering them some protection against the virus,” Kolettis said.

She also said mothers who are postpartum or breastfeeding should be vaccinated.

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