How to weigh the risks of traveling with kids this holiday

In December 2020, ending the first year of the pandemic, only a quarter of Americans travel for the holidays – a fraction of the usual one-third. This year is different: air travel has tripled from 2020 levels, and 109 million Americans — almost a third of the country to be exact — are traveling. The timing couldn’t be worse: the extremely contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 is causing a massive spike in cases. That has caused many people to rethink the plan – especially those with children under the age of 5 who are not yet eligible for vaccinations. Indeed, the lack of vaccines for the youngest children means that young children, toddlers and babies are not protected this holiday season.

The fact that the omicron is still not fully understood could be construed as making traveling parents more anxious. Different variants have been known to infect children at different rates. And in the case of omicrons, early data has piled on how the new variant affects children compared to earlier ones.

In Texas, doctors are reporting an increase in hospitalizations for children under 18.

Dr. Jim Versalovic, co-chair of TCH COVID-19, said about hospitalization at Texas Children’s Hospital. Specifically, there were 10 pediatric patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the past week. Versalovic added: “Our hospitalizations for people under 18 have more than doubled in the last four days.

Doctors have seen an increase in the number of hospitalizations of children under the age of 5 during omicron surgery, and suspect it is due to the increased infection rate of omicrons. Remarkably, doctors say there is a common theme among hospitalized children: their parents have not been vaccinated.

Dr Waasila Jassat of South Africa’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases said: “All of these young children were admitted to the hospital, most of them, unvaccinated parents. CBS News. “So I think, certainly, the value of vaccinating adults, protecting children in the home, is something to keep in mind.”

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This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the omicron . variant now accounts for nearly 73 percent of new coronavirus infections in the United States. That increase is staggering because at the beginning of December, the new variant accounted for just under 1% of new infections. While the jury is still out regarding omicron’s virulence – which means it has the potential to cause severe illness – the increased transmissibility of the variant means more people are at risk of becoming infected, including children.

It is important to note that the number of children hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 has been relatively low throughout the pandemic. Age appears to be linearly correlated with risk from COVID-19, a trend that has remained true throughout the pandemic.

Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious disease and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Davis, told Salon that there is no data yet on how children will be affected by omicrons.

“We know it can be two to five times easier to transmit than the plains,” Blumberg said. “That makes it extremely infectious, so everyone is at risk for infection. And we know that it has mutations that allow it to evade prior immunity or immunity from vaccination or immunity from a previous infection.”

Blumberg emphasizes that children have a lower risk of severe illness.

“Healthy children who don’t have underlying medical conditions don’t have risk factors for more severe illness, so if they get an infection – unvaccinated or have a sudden infection – they’re less likely to get sick.” may become seriously ill and require hospitalization.”

Of course, Blumberg said children who are considered high risk for COVID-19, possibly because they are immunocompromised, may be at higher risk for omicrons. If you have a child with such a condition, that’s something to consider in your holiday travel risk calculation.

“We know that although COVID is usually milder in children than it is in adults, in the US there have been more than a million children hospitalized and more than 700 deaths,” Blumberg said. “So even though it’s less serious for children, it can be serious, and that’s why I encourage parents to get their kids vaccinated and make sure they’re well protected. Fully vaccinated.”

Of course, not all children are eligible for vaccinations. Meanwhile, Blumberg stressed the importance of masking children.

“Vaccination is the first line of defense – the second line of defense is to cover the face, and children under the age of two can hide it,” Blumberg notes. “I would have those kids wear masks when they’re around other people outside of their family, especially people whose immunization status you don’t know. For kids under two years old. where wearing masks is not feasible and possibly unsafe, there is a risk of them being around unvaccinated people.”

Blumberg added that children between the ages of six months and four years are likely to be eligible for the vaccine in the first quarter of 2022.

So, is omicron a reason for parents with young children to cancel vacation and travel plans? Blumberg stresses the need to consider your own “risk tolerance”.

“I think we can all respect that people are tired of the effects that all the closures have on people,” Blumberg said. “If people have potential risk factors for more severe disease, you may want to rethink your plan. If everyone is healthy and you think an infection or a sudden infection could lead to a flare-up of the disease, you might want to rethink your plan. When it comes to mild illness and you have to see each other, you think it’s important for the mental and emotional health of your family that you should do that.”

Read more about omicron variation: How to weigh the risks of traveling with kids this holiday

Caroline Bleakley

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