HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A child who was visiting Oahu from the mainland has died after contracting COVID-19, becoming the state’s first pediatric fatality from the virus.
Health Department officials said while deaths in children are rare, they are not unheard of ― and they underscore the need for continued COVID precautions and vaccinations.
The little boy’s exact age hasn’t been released. Officials said he wasn’t older than 10, and had an underlying medical condition. Additional specifics were not provided.
“I can tell you that both parents had been vaccinated, fully vaccinated. And both parents had tested negative before traveling from the mainland to Hawaii,” said DOH spokesperson Brooks Baehr.
Baehr said the child, who was not tested before arriving in Hawaii, started showing symptoms shortly after arrival and was hospitalized.
“So soon after arrival that it is very likely this child was infected with COVID while on the mainland or perhaps in transit,” he said.
Dr. Nadine Salle, a pediatrician, said cases like this one are extremely rare. She added most children who contract COVID only experience mild symptoms.
“They’re like flu symptoms,” Salle said. “Respiratory, runny nose, fever, myalgia.”
As of last week, more than 3.7 million children had contracted COVID-19 nationwide. Of those cases, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recorded 291 deaths.
In Hawaii, state health data shows a total of 28 children have been hospitalized with the virus since the start of the pandemic.
While underlying conditions like asthma, obesity, and heart issues are believed to be risk factors for children to develop severe illness, Salle says there’s no clear-cut list. She said it’s up to parents and their pediatrician to make the best decision for the child based on their health.
“Do you keep that child that might be a little sicker than his healthier brother and sister in a bubble? Or do you do things to keep them safe,” she said. “And then you go back to basics. Wash your hands, social distancing, that way you avoid getting into high risk situations.”
Salle also emphasized the importance of people over the age of 16 in every household getting vaccinated. “So you don’t expose the child who is not eligible for vaccines,” she said.
Of the 479 people who have died from the coronavirus in Hawaii, well over half were over 70.