Here's What We Know About Coronavirus Risks to Children, According to the US CDC

By Ed Cara on at

A new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that children with covid-19 tend to experience milder symptoms and are less likely to be hospitalised than adults.

Evidence from various countries and isolated outbreaks (such as on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship) has long suggested that children are much less susceptible to covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, than other age groups. But the CDC report is the first to look at how this plays out in the country with the most reported cases of covid-19, namely America.

The new CDC report, published Tuesday in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, looks at data from nearly 150,000 confirmed covid-19 cases in the US reported between 12 February and 2 April 2020. Fewer than 2,600 cases, or 1.7 per cent, involved children under the age of 18. A third of these cases came from New York City, with another third coming from the rest of New York state and New Jersey.

From there, the data is more spotty. Only a small percentage of these cases had available information about a patient’s symptoms (9 percent), any underlying health conditions (13 per cent), and whether they were hospitalised or not (33 per cent).

Still, among cases with known information, children seem to have an easier time with covid-19. Only 73 per cent of the children in this sample had the common symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath, compared to 93 per cent of adults between the ages of 18 and 64. A smaller percentage of children (just 5.7 per cent of all paediatric cases) were hospitalised, compared to 10 percent of adults, though both numbers may be higher since many of the cases included in the report did not include information about whether the patient was hospitalised.

“In this preliminary description of paediatric US COVID-19 cases, relatively few children with COVID-19 are hospitalised, and fewer children than adults experience fever, cough, or shortness of breath,” the authors wrote.

Despite the findings, though, children aren’t completely impervious to the virus. Experts speculate that children are more likely than adults to carry the virus while not feeling sick, and that false sense of security may then make children more likely to spread the virus to others, including their caregivers. And while severe cases and deaths among children are rarer, they’re not zero. In the CDC report, there were three paediatric deaths recorded, though it’s not clear whether covid-19 was to blame or if they died of something else.

All of this means that children, every bit as much as adults, should try to avoid catching covid-19 as much as possible.

“Social distancing and everyday preventive behaviours remain important for all age groups because patients with less serious illness and those without symptoms likely play an important role in disease transmission,” the authors wrote.

Featured image: Getty