Local health experts weigh in on new COVID strain and how it might affect children

News of the new COVID strain detected in the UK has brought up a lot of questions about if and how it may affect children differently than the main strain we’ve seen in the United States.

 An epidemiologist in London says there’s a hint children may be more susceptible to this mutation, as he says they’re seeing higher rates of infection in the UK among children. There are still so many unknowns, but naturally it’s a topic that’s on many parents minds.

For many, even just the possibility that a new strain of COVID could surface in the US and children could be more vulnerable to it than they are to other strains-is unsettling. But one of our state’s top pediatricians says keep this in mind. "There is more that we need to learn. we can't really make conclusions, we need to wait for the science," says Dr. Danielle Zerr, the medical director for infection prevention at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  

Dr. Zerr says despite some very preliminary information coming from some UK health officials, she says there isn’t nearly enough info yet about the new strain and children. "It's interesting and definitely something that we need to follow up on and study carefully. It’s not immediately clear to me why a particular strain would do better in children than adults, so that’s where my mind goes is questioning why would that be and wanting to understand that better."

She says it’s way too soon for parents to panic. But reminds us it’s good to know the facts, COVID cases are up, and new strain or not-kids aren’t immune. We know kids typically don’t get as ill with COVID as adults. But Dr. Zerr says she sees children in the hospital everyday with the virus.

"There’s some evidence that they transfer for it less efficiently than adults but they can get it, and they can get sick."

Dr. Zerr says at this point she doesn’t think the focus should be on the new strain and children. Rather, she thinks everyone needs to do what we know works in terms of slowing the spread. "I think we'll be hearing more very soon and we just need to stand by and double down on all our protective matters."

"As a mother of four young children I feel like we've already been taking so many precautions," says Andrea Isackson. Isackson says as she hears about the new strain, she’s mindful about not bringing more stress into the home. "I would never want to put more fear into my children because that can be more harmful than the virus itself in my opinion."

And for her own sanity: "With the unknown it’s hard to put myself there because we already are so worried about everything."

Instead of worrying what could be, she confident with the safety precautions her family is practicing. As she puts it, they’ve already boarded up their windows in preparation for the storm. Isackson says she hopes that concerns about the new strain surfacing in Washington and kids possibly spreading it more easily don’t weigh heavily on any decisions schools make when it comes to reopening. She says with so many unknowns about the new strain, her hope is that schools will continue to look at the COVID pilot programs that reflect cases in children and base their decisions off the data.