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28 Aug, 2020 15:05

Covid-19’s an adult disease: Children at ‘tiny’ risk of acute coronavirus, UK academics claim

Covid-19’s an adult disease: Children at ‘tiny’ risk of acute coronavirus, UK academics claim

The chances that children infected by Covid-19 could die are slim, as underage patients’ symptoms are markedly less acute than in those across other age groups, a promising study has suggested.

The research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) involved a cohort of children aged 19 or under who had tested positive for coronavirus and been hospitalized between January and July of this year. 

Of the 651 underage cases reviewed across England, Scotland, and Wales, only 18 percent required intensive care, the authors report. Six children – about 1 percent of the total cluster – had died, but they suffered from cardiac anomaly and bacterial sepsis, or were immunosuppressed by chemotherapy that hindered the coronavirus treatment.

Eighty-nine percent of the cohort were eventually discharged from hospital and the remaining 10 percent were undergoing treatment at the time of publication. “Children and young people have less severe acute Covid-19 than adults,” the researchers concluded.

They listed the most common coronavirus symptoms in children admitted to hospital, among them fever, cough, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting. Others complained about stomach pain, headache, and a sore throat.

The news will be particularly reassuring for parents wary of sending their children back to school after the summer holiday, or allowing them to leave the home. “It’s vanishingly rare to have severe disease in children,” said Professor Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, and the study’s co-author.

Notably, researchers found that being obese or black increases the risk of acute coronavirus, but to less of an extent than previously thought. “If you’re a black parent in Glasgow or London, your kids should still go back to school,” Semple assured. 

Questions about child transmission have been raised over the past weeks and months, and the BMJ study seems to reinforce a hypothesis that Covid-19 symptoms are less severe in children. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control suggests children “are much less likely to be hospitalized or have fatal outcomes than adults.”

“Those that do get sick tend to experience milder symptoms such as low-grade fever, fatigue, and cough,” adds Harvard Medical School. Some minors have had severe complications, “but this has been less common,” it clarified. 

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