• Article
  • March 18, 2020

New Pediatric Study Examines COVID-19 Cases in Kids

An examination of pediatric coronavirus cases in China shows the potential effect on kids.

Cases of COVID-19 among children in China have been less severe than those in adults, according to a new study. In the study, "Epidemiology of COVID-19 Among Children in China," published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers examined 2,143 infected children under the age of 18 in China that were reported to the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of Feb. 8.

About two-thirds of the children had suspected cases of COVID-19, and the rest of the cases were laboratory-confirmed. There were no major differences in the number of boys and girls.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, other findings include:

  • About half of the children had mild symptoms: fever, fatigue, cough, congestion and possibly nausea or diarrhea. 
  • More than one-third were moderately sick, with additional symptoms including pneumonia or lung problems.
  • About 4% of the children had no symptoms.
  • 6% of children developed serious illnesses, compared to up to 20% in adults.
  • One 14-year-old boy who tested positive died, and 13 children were considered in critical condition.

The study also found infants had higher rates of serious illness than older children. Less than 11% of infants had severe or critical cases compared to 7% of children ages 1 to 5, 4% of children ages 6 to 10, 4% of children ages 11 to 15, and 3% of children 16 and older.

In the study, the authors proposed several possible reasons for the difference of the severity of illness between kids and adults, including children having fewer opportunities for exposure, higher levels of antibodies against viruses or different responses from their developing immune systems. The virus also may not bind as well to children's cells.

The study was limited by a short window of time and a high percentage of severe and critical cases without laboratory confirmation. Those cases potentially could have been other respiratory infections.

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