Arnold Palmer doctor says pediatric hospitalizations have ‘skyrocketed’

US Department of Health and Human Services shows 230 children in hospitals across state, marking highest ever

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dr. Federico Laham, medical director of infectious diseases at Arnold Palmer Hospital, says pediatric cases at the hospital have “skyrocketed” over the last few weeks.

“We have seen a dramatic increased number of children especially those under 17,” Laham said. “The number of patients admitted to the hospital has tripled during this last month in August.”

Currently, Orlando Health reports 17 pediatric cases admitted in the hospital with 5 admitted Sunday alone and one currently in the ICU.

Laham said he believes the delta variant is affecting children worse than COVID-19 last year, seeing children coming in at higher numbers and sicker than ever before.

“We have seen more kids coming in sicker to the hospital, we have seen more children coming with respiratory disease resembling the disease that adults have, severe pneumonia, requiring increases amount of oxygen in some cases intubation and ICU care - this is a serious, serious respiratory disease,” Dr. Laham added.

The trends seen at Orlando Health coincide with data reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, tracking pediatric hospitalizations showing the highest number of kids in hospitals ever reported on Aug. 30, with 230 in hospitals across the state.

For context, on July 1, there were only 20 kids in hospitals in the entire State of Florida.

Laham said the age ranges of children admitted are as young as infants, but he has seen more severe cases in teenagers.

“We have seen young infants admitted because of Covid, in terms of patients admitted, the majority are those under 6 years of age but what I have seen is those who are sicker are those over 12, that breaks my heart because I know we can prevent that,” Dr. Laham added.

Orlando Health would not report if they have had any pediatric deaths. As far as recovery, Laham says treatments do allow for children to recover, just not as easily as before.

“I want to say what I have seen and witnessed – this virus is different than the virus we had last year,” Laham said. “We are lucky children responded to treatments, but I have to say they are very sick, very sick for a condition that is, again, very preventable.”

Laham is encouraging parents of those children over the age of 12 to get vaccinated.

“The best treatment for this condition is preventative happening to begin with,” he said.

About the Author:

Nadeen Yanes joined News 6 as a general assignment reporter in 2016. She grew up in Leesburg and graduated from the University of Florida. Nadeen has won three Associated Press Awards for her reporting on the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the trial of the Pulse gunman's wife and the capture of an accused cop killer, Markeith Loyd.