CHEO Doctors Answer Parents’ Questions About Babies and Omicron

Parents worried about the Omicron wave of COVID-19 had the chance to ask Ottawa doctors their urgent questions on Thursday evening – including concerns about the severity of recently reported cases in babies and other young patients.

A group of employees from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) hosted the hour-long virtual town hall a day after CHEO and a Hamilton hospital released a public service announcement stating that six infants between the two sites had been hospitalized with COVID-infections. 19 since mid-December, despite the previous scarcity of infant admissions.

“What we are seeing with Omicron is not really different than what we have seen with other variants of COVID-19,” said Dr. Nisha Thampi, panel member, pediatric infectious disease physician and medical director infection prevention and control at CHEO.

“The children generally coped with the infection very well.”

WATCH | The full Q&A can be viewed below:


Questions were submitted in advance via email and over 900 people logged into the virtual session at its peak.

While noting the recent surge in child admissions, Thampi said the experience of doctors – in hospitals in communities that are a few weeks ahead of their Omicron push – suggests the rise is only the a reflection of the high transmissibility of the variant.

“Most of the children who are in our hospital with a positive COVID test are not admitted due to COVID-related illness,” Thampi said, adding that most of the children admitted due to COVID-19 have had short stays.

Wednesday’s public service announcement said mothers of babies admitted to CHEO with COVID were not vaccinated.

“Since babies and moms have relatively weaker immune systems just during pregnancy and the postpartum period, we encourage anyone who is pregnant to get vaccinated against COVID or upon its booster,” Thampi said.

“What does COVID look like in babies? ”

CHEO President and CEO Alex Munter, who chaired town hall, said the hospital had received many questions about the appearance of COVID-19 in infected babies. Staff were also asked when a child should be brought to the emergency room.

“When we see a fever in a very young baby, like certainly less than a month old, we recommend that he come to the hospital because babies don’t really tell us where their infection is and what their infection is. It could be a bacterial infection or it could be due to a bacteria or a virus, ”Thampi said.

The same goes for children under three months who are not doing well.

There is no typical picture of an infected child, Thampi pointed out.

“We have seen children who have had mild breathing difficulties or who have come with a fever,” Thampi said.

“The same things we would have told parents to look for before COVID are the same symptoms that should make you think about coming to the hospital for treatment. “

CHEO, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, hosted a virtual town hall seen by over 900 people on Thursday evening. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

Limit contact for infants, wear a properly fitted mask

COVID-19 vaccines are currently not available for children under five (with the exception of some high-risk immunocompromised patients), so Thampi was asked if babies under 12 months run a plus great risk of contracting the disease.

She said it is not clear whether infants have a specific increased risk of COVID-19 or whether more cases are currently being seen.

“The simplest answer is yes, please limit your contact for now,” Thampi said of infants in general, adding that essential visitors helping mothers and babies should wear a properly fitted mask.

“Maybe delay gatherings to introduce the baby to the community and make sure every eligible member of the household is vaccinated,” she added.

Parents Emily Johnston and Bobak Toufighi and their baby Grayson. The family has remained largely isolated since Grayson’s birth. (courtesy Emily Johnston)

Emily Johnston and her partner Bobak Toufighi, who have remained largely isolated since the premature birth of their son a year and a half ago, said they were grateful to see CHEO recognize the anxiety and confusion that they are experiencing. parents in the middle of the Omicron wave.

CHEO’s child psychologist and clinical manager of crisis services, Dr. Allison Kennedy, addressed this topic at the start of Thursday’s session.

“I think we all expected to go through the worst,” she said of the pandemic. “And this is Omicron. Such tough times, for sure.”

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