Story at a glance
- Children are catching the coronavirus, but few are experiencing severe cases.
- Children are traditionally more vulnerable to flu or other coronaviruses.
- Older adults and those with underlying health conditions seem to be the most vulnerable.
Typically, children are among the most vulnerable when it comes to the flu or other coronaviruses. But as there are more than 1,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States with the number expected to rise, it appears children have rarely experienced severe cases.
A new study published today in Nature Medicine assessed 10 children in China between the ages of 2 months and 15 years old who had COVID-19 and recovered. Chinese researchers screened 745 children who had close contact with COVID-19 patients or were members of families that experienced outbreaks.
The study found seven children had symptoms including fever, coughing, sore throat and nasal congestion, but none experienced headaches or muscle aches. X-rays of all 10 children showed no signs of pneumonia, which has been identified in severe cases in adults. The study found one of the children showed no symptoms at all.
“Mild and atypical presentations of the infection in children may make it difficult to detect,” according to the study.
Out of the 745 children suspected of being infected who were screened between Jan. 22 and Feb. 20, about 1.3 percent were found to be infected.
Out of nearly 45,000 confirmed cases in China through Feb. 11, there was only one death in someone younger than 20, and no deaths among children younger than 10, according to CNN.
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“The evidence so far would suggest that children, at least in China, many children have gotten and have ... either had a very mild illness or not had any illness at all,” Dr. Arthur Reingold, an epidemiologist at the University of California at Berkeley, told CNN.
“Children simply don’t get very sick when they get this infection,” Reingold added. “So if they develop any symptoms at all, they’re mild ... and so, severe illnesses and deaths, fortunately, are incredibly rare.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that based on available evidence, adults make up most of the known cases to date, and children with confirmed COVID-19 generally show mild symptoms. The CDC says early information out of China shows older adults and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease are most vulnerable.
Even though it appears children are not as likely to develop severe symptoms, or any at all, it does not mean they won’t contract the virus and spread it to others.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said children seem to be doing very well amid the pandemic.
“Children although they get infected, unlike influenza, they do not necessarily at all get serious disease,” Fauci told MSNBC on Friday.
“In fact, if you look at the history of what we’ve seen, children do very well,” he added. “The only problem is when they get infected, and schools can be a breeding ground for that, they go home and infect grandma and grandpa, or a relative, or someone who might be in a more vulnerable position, so that’s the rationale for shutting schools.”
Many schools have canceled classes all across the country in an effort to curb the outbreak.
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