AP

How does COVID-19 affect kids? Science has answers and gaps

Jul 17, 2020, 4:19 PM

Utah children and COVID-19 kids spread COVID-19 herd immunity...

(PHOTO: AP Photo/LM Otero)

(PHOTO: AP Photo/LM Otero)

(AP) — What role children play in the coronavirus pandemic is the hot-button question of the summer as kids relish their free time while schools labor over how to resume classes.

The Trump administration says the science “is very clear,” but many doctors who specialize in pediatrics and infectious diseases say much of the evidence is inconclusive.

“There are still a lot of unanswered questions. That is the biggest challenge,” said Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a pediatrics professor at the University of Florida and former scientist at the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Several studies suggest but don’t prove that children are less likely to become infected than adults and that kids are more likely to have only mild symptoms.

An early report from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began last winter, found that fewer than 2% of cases were in children. Later reports suggest between 5% and 8% of U.S. cases are in kids.

Through July 9, about 200,000 kids had tested positive in the U.S., according to a count based on state reports by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The number of kids who have been infected is almost certainly far higher than that though, experts say, because those with mild or no symptoms are less likely to get tested.

The CDC says that 228 children and teens through age 17 have died from the disease in the U.S. as of Thursday. More than 138,000 Americans have died in total, and there have been more than 3.6 million confirmed cases.

One early study examining infections in children comes from a Wuhan hospital. Of 171 children treated there, most had relatively mild illness. One child died, and only three needed intensive care and ventilator treatment. Perhaps more worrisome was that 12 had X-ray evidence of pneumonia, but no other symptoms.

A CDC study involving 2,500 children published that same month, in April, echoed those findings. About 1 in 5 infected children were hospitalized versus 1 in 3 adults; three children died. The study lacks complete data on all the cases, but it also suggests that many infected children have no symptoms.

“We’re trying to figure out who those kids are,” Rasmussen said. “We need to figure out the impact on kids and on the rest of the community, their parents and their grandparents. If they’re transmitting a lot to each other, and then bringing it home to their families.”

Not knowing if children are infected makes it difficult for schools to reopen safely, many experts say. Scarce data on whether infected children — including those without symptoms — easily spread the disease to others complicates the issue, said Jeffrey Shaman, a Columbia University infectious disease specialist.

A National Institutes of Health-sponsored study seeking to answer that question and others is underway.

A JAMA Pediatrics study from May, cited Thursday by White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, involved just 48 children treated in U.S. and Canadian intensive care units. As McEnany indicated, most were not critically ill. Still, she did not mention that 18, or almost 40%, needed ventilator treatment and two died.

McEnany was correct that children appear less likely to become critically ill from COVID-19 than from the flu. But the CDC says COVID-19 can be more contagious and has been linked with more “superspreading” events than the flu, meaning it can quickly spread and infect lots of people.

Also, blood clots and organ damage have been found in children with COVID-19, including those who develop a related inflammatory illness. The most recent count shows 342 U.S. children and teens have developed that condition, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.

The condition is rare but can occur in children with current or recent COVID-19 infections. Symptoms include fever and problems in at least two organs, often including the heart. Digestive problems are common, and some cases have been mistaken with Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome.

Perhaps the biggest unknown is whether permanent damage to lungs and other organs can result. The virus is too new to know for sure.
___
Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.
__
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

AP

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night ...

MEG KINNARD and WILL WEISSERT Associated Press

Trump wins South Carolina, easily beating Haley in her home state and closing in on GOP nomination

Donald Trump won South Carolina's Republican primary on Saturday further consolidating his path to a third straight GOP nomination.

1 day ago

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, center, sits with her attorney Jason Bowles, left, during the first day of t...

MORGAN LEE Associate Press

Negligence or scapegoating? Trial of ‘Rust’ armorer begins in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

Prosecutors sought to pin blame on a movie weapons supervisor for bringing live ammunition on set that contributed to the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin during production of the film "Rust."

3 days ago

A pail rests next to caution tape on a beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2...

Associated Press

Young girl killed when a hole she dug in the sand collapsed on a Florida beach, authorities said

A young girl died Tuesday when a deep hole she was digging collapsed on her at a south Florida beach, authorities said.

5 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018....

MEAD GRUVER Associated Press

A Colorado man is dead after a pet Gila monster bite

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death if the creature's venom was the cause.

5 days ago

Visitors stand at the closed gates leading to the Eiffel Tower, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024 in Paris....

OLEG CETINIC Associated Press

Eiffel Tower operator warns the landmark is closed as strike turns visitors away for a second day

A strike at the Eiffel Tower over poor financial management turned away visitors on Tuesday for the second consecutive day.

5 days ago

capitol one building...

KEN SWEET AP Business Writer

Capital One to buy Discover for $35 billion in deal that combines major US credit card companies

Capital One Financial is buying Discover Financial Services for $35 billion, in a deal that would bring together two of the nation's biggest lenders and credit card issuers.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

How does COVID-19 affect kids? Science has answers and gaps