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Nearly 1 in 10 of Oregon's COVID cases reported in July involved a child younger than 12

Most kids have little to no symptoms, but experts say there are rare exceptions that parents should be aware of.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Coronavirus does not distinguish between adults and children when invading a body. With the delta variant spreading faster than anything before it, experts say both kids and adults are at greater risk.

“There's no doubt that there are more children getting infected," Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday. "As I mentioned in one of my slides, the delta variant is much more highly transmissible than was alpha. So, given that, you will see more children likely get infected."

Those who are 12 and older can get vaccinated, but none of the COVID vaccines have been approved for kids younger than 12. They are vulnerable and some are getting sick.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) told KGW that in July, 9.4% of COVID-19 cases reported in Oregon involved kids younger than 12.

OHA would not provide a specific number, so we added up all the cases using their weekly reports from June 28 to Aug. 1. We found 9.4% of those 13,575 cases meant that 1,276 Oregon kids 11 and younger got sick with Covid-19 in July.

RELATED: Oregon surpasses COVID-19 records for case numbers, hospitalizations and ICU beds

Experts say the number could easily be much higher since many kids have little to no symptoms and don't even know they're infected. According to doctors, the best warning sign for children is a loss of taste or sense of smell. 

A check of hospitals in Portland and Medford on Thursday showed only three kids or teens hospitalized with COVID. 

But parents should be aware of a rare, potentially life-threatening condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome. It's often linked to COVID cases in children, said Dr. Becky Riggs, an intensive care doctor at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.

“Some children, it affects their brain, it can cause brain swelling. In some children, it causes a lot of vomiting, diarrhea, bad belly pain. Some children it can cause respiratory failure or lung congestion. And one of the most life threatening is it can affect how the heart works,” said Dr. Riggs.

Dr. Riggs moved to Portland in January and has cared for many very sick children.

RELATED: Yes, there’s a rise in child COVID-19 cases but it’s not yet known if the delta variant is more dangerous for kids

“I’ve taken care of dozens of children with multi inflammatory syndrome here in Oregon,” she said.

Dr. Riggs said experts believe it happens when the antibodies of some children go haywire and create widespread inflammation. There is no rhyme or reason, she said, to who will get it.

The syndrome often hits as long as a month after the child is infected with COVID.

"The majority of children, it actually is starting more with [gastrointestinal] symptoms. A lot of belly pain. Cramping belly pain. Then just leads to overall fatigue, weakness, headaches and again a lot of symptoms that could be confused with an influenza-type infection,” Dr. Riggs said.

It is one more reason doctors urge everyone to wear masks and get vaccinated to slow the spread of the delta variant.

Have a comment or story idea for Pat Dooris? Email him at pdooris@kgw.com

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