Coronavirus symptoms difficult to detect in children
RAYMONDVILLE – Children are considered carriers of the coronavirus but they are not immune to contracting it.
Raymondville Mayor Gilbert Gonzalez confirmed the child who tested positive for COVID-19 in Willacy County on Thursday was four years old. Doctors don't believe the child traveled out of the county. The case raised concerns about how the child got sick and who else may have been exposed.
The elderly and those with underlying conditions have proven susceptible to the virus, but children could also contract it without showing any symptoms.
Dr. Enrique Caceres, a local pediatrician and infectious diseases specialist, says some children do experience mild symptoms. "The other vast majority are patients who have mild symptoms like runny nose, mild sore throat, occasional cough, but not necessarily to the point of severe distress or difficulty breathing," he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website also lists, "Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. It’s not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs."
Those mild symptoms can often be overlooked by caretakers and even at the doctor's office.
"We are all afraid that maybe the case of the kids have symptoms that are very mild and that we don't look too much and test too much on them," said Dr. Caceres.
The difficulty in detecting the virus in children prompted school districts to close, counties to shelter-in-place and even cities to close their playgrounds. It's an effort to protect the virus from spreading through children to adults.
Most of the positive cases of in the Valley affected adults between 20 through 49 years of age, said Texas Department of State Health Services Dr. Emily Prot. The fact that Willacy County's first case was a child tells doctors the virus is more than likely present in other people in the community.
Dr. Caceres said, "So when a person, or a child, is found in the community, we are worried that probably there are many other cases circulating in adults and it's reaching the point that the kids are getting sick."
If parents and caretakers suspect their child is sick, Dr. Caceres recommends they call the pediatrician's office first and explain what the symptoms are before visiting the office.
Most cases have not required hospitalization, but keeping kids from spreading the virus is essential to the well-being of the rest of the family.