SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Medical experts encourage moms and dads to get their children vaccinated since the new delta variant of COVID-19 is affecting more younger people.

Southwest Missouri has been in the national spotlight in recent days following an alarming spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, specifically the Delta variant.

“If you have children under age one or if you have children who have underlying medical conditions, they are at a higher risk to get more severe symptoms,” said Danyal Thaber, a pediatric intensivist.

A tweet from Mercy Hospital’s chief administrative officer, Erik Frederick, said they had a baby test positive for the virus.

With this latest round of COVID cases, health workers are seeing some younger patients.

“We do have these rare instances where they need to be hospitalized,” said Doctor Nancy Yoon, with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. “They may need a ventilator to support their breathing. And rarely will some children die. And we want to avoid that as much as we can.”

Health experts say parents should watch their children closely for symptoms. The average symptoms are fever and cough, but parents should also watch if they eat and drink, have stomach issues, have trouble breathing, or seem more tired than usual.

“If there are children, especially under the age of one year, children who have underlying medical conditions, children whose immune system is already a little bit weak, to begin with, it would be important for them to continue precautions if they are near people they think are sick,” said Thaber.

Doctors have some theories about why the delta variant affects younger people: the first is age 12 to 30 is a big demographic with lower vaccination rates, the second is with masking gone, viruses now have a chance to spread more easily.