FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - A North Texas pediatric hospital says two of its patients have died due to "severe abuse" that doctors believe may be linked to coronavirus-related stress.
According to Cook Children's, the hospital received seven patients under the age of four within a week due to abuse. It was announced Sunday that two of those patients died from their injuries.
Doctors say they usually see this number of cases within a month and believe this spike in abuse cases at the hospital could be related to stress from the COVID-19 outbreak that's been taking a toll on households with businesses being shut down and residents being told to stay home.
"We usually only average six deaths from abuse a year at Cook Children's and now we've had two children die on the same day," said Jamye Coffman, medical director of the Cook Children's Center for Prevention and Child Abuse and Neglect and the CARE team. "This is an issue related to stress. We are seeing it from all over from urban area to more rural counties."
Further information on the two deaths was not released.
According to doctors, they foresaw the increase in abuse cases after seeing what the recession in 2008/2009 did to households around the U.S. During that time, Cook Children's reported it saw more deaths caused by head trauma from abuse than vehicle crashes.
"We knew an increase in abuse was going to occur, but this happened faster than we ever imagined," said Christi Thornhill, director of the Trauma Program, the CARE team and Fostering Health at Cook Children's. "I mean this happened in a week and these are really bad abuse cases."
Dr. Coffman says stressors can include financial reasons, residents being stuck in a home with each other for long periods of time and even the fact that news surrounding the coronavirus is a constant on TV and social media.
"Stress is not an excuse for abusing your child, but rather we hope that caregivers can recognize their stress and ask for help rather than accelerate dangerous behaviors, and that others can recognize and intervene as well," Dr. Coffman said.
Cook Children's says Childhelp.org provides resources for both children and parents. Anyone who needs help can also call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.422.4453.
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