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Are Children Less Susceptible to COVID-19?

COVID-19 March 25, 2020 Update

According to the first published article analyzing currently available cases in China, the overall finding is: children at ALL ages were susceptible to COVID-19, but their clinical symptoms were generally less severe compared to adult patients.1

Between January 16 and February 8, 2020, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 2,143 cases with COVID-19 who were under the age of 18. Researchers from Shanghai Children’s Medical Center (Shanghai, China) proceeded to analyze the characteristics and transmission patterns of this patient population.

Of these cases, 34.1% of them were later identified as lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 65.9% as suspected cases. Suspected cases were based on their probability of contracting the novel coronavirus, observed symptoms, and other lab tests.

The key findings of their analysis were:1

  • The number of cases were similar between boys and girls
  • 4% were diagnosed as asymptomatic, 50.9% as mild cases, and 38.3% as moderate cases
  • 9% of children were severe and critical cases, in comparison to 18.5% of adult patients as reported in another study2
  • Young children, particularly infants, were more vulnerable to COVID-19 compared with older children (e.g., the proportion of severe and critical cases were 10.6% for infants and 3.0% for those 16 years and older)

It is still unclear why COVID-19 cases were less severe in children than in adults. Some suggested environmental factors: Children were generally well cared for at home and had fewer chances to be exposed to sick patients. Some suggested host factors: Children’s immune system was not as developed or as “experienced” as adults’. Regardless, younger children, especially infants, are still vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

These findings were published in mid-March 2020 in the journal Pediatrics.1

What are takeaways for parents with young children?

  • Overall, the severity of children’s COVID-19 cases was milder, and the fatality rate was much lower compared with adult cases
  • Nevertheless, no ages have been spared according to currently available data, and younger children and infants are more vulnerable than older children (almost 1 in 10 cases in infants were severe or critical)
  • Parents should explain and help children practice physical distancing, frequent hand-washing, and staying home if feeling sick

As the novel coronavirus is spreading rapidly worldwide, the situation changes every single day. This update reflects current evidence at time of release. Metagenics Institute will follow the development closely and continue to provide updates according to new evidence.

View the article

Citations

  1. Dong Y et al. Epidemiological characteristics of 2143 pediatric patients with 2019 coronavirus disease in China. Pediatrics. 2020:pii: e20200702. [Epub ahead of print].
  2. Novel coronavirus pneumonia emergency response epidemiology T. [The epidemiological characteristics of an outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) in China]. Zhonghua Liu Xing Bing Xue Za Zhi. 2020;41:145-151.

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