MMWR Provides Preliminary US Data on COVID-19 Pediatric Cases

Grant Boone
April 8, 2020

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that in the majority of juveniles infected with COVID-19, the symptoms are less severe than in adult patients.

The CDC reported its tally of cases of the respiratory illness known as COVID-19, caused by a new coronavirus, as of 4 pm ET on April 6 compared to its count a day ago.

And while each pediatric death is a tragedy, only three of the 2,572 children with COVID-19 covered by the study died, the team reported.

In the 745 pediatric cases for which hospitalization status was available, 147 were hospitalized and 15 admitted to intensive care.

The new findings support claims from a previous study on pediatric cases in China, which also found that COVID-19 infections appeared to be less severe in children. They added the first pediatric US case was reported to CDC on March 2.

The report, Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Children - United States, Feb. 12-April 2, shows that fewer children with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are hospitalized. Fewer children than adults, researchers found, experience three of the main symptoms: cough, fever, and shortness of breath. That number was significantly higher among the 10,944 adult cases for which data was available, at 93 percent.

Almost one-third of the cases occurred among children aged 15 to 17 while another 27 percent took place in children between the ages of 10 and 14 years old.

Among all the 2,572 cases in USA children through April 2, 33% were in New York City, 23% were from the rest of New York, 15% were in New Jersey and 29% were from the rest of the country.

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The information was contained in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The hospitalization rate is also lesser for children under 18 than it is for adults, at 29 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

Infants accounted for the largest proportion of hospitalized children, ranging from 15% to 62% of pediatric COVID-19 admissions.

Based on the partial data analyzed in this study, between 5.7% and 20% of sick children end up in the hospital, and 2% or fewer end up in intensive care, the paper says. Of 95 children younger than age 1, 59 were hospitalized and 5 were admitted to an ICU. Patients from these groups are more common complications and severe disease.

"Although most cases reported among children to date have not been severe, clinicians should maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19 infection in children and monitor for progression of illness, particularly among infants and children with underlying conditions", researchers said. Of 258 patients who were not hospitalized, 30 had underlying health conditions.

The CDC stressed in their report that extreme cases have been reported in children - including three deaths in the US - and that the data in both their study and China's, is limited.

As such, the protocols that have been put in place by health officials, such as "social distancing and everyday preventative behaviors", will continue to "remain important for all age groups as patients with less serious illness and those without symptoms likely play an important role in disease transmission", the report added.

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