The largest study ever with children with the new coronavirus suggests that men and infants may face an increased risk of infection or serious illness.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study on Monday, which looked at more than 2,500 cases of coronavirus in children under 18 in the U.S. between February 12 and April 2. It is the largest research sample of children with coronaviruses to date.
Overall, the data suggest that children are less likely to develop coronavirus symptoms than adults. In the United States, only 1.7% of all reported cases were children, although they represent 22% of the population.
Among children for whom complete information was available, only 73% developed fever, cough or shortness of breath. This is compared to 93% of adults reported in the same period, between the ages of 18 and 64.
This confirms previous research from the Chinese CDC, which found that most infected children had mild or asymptomatic cases.
But some children develop serious illness and 147 of the patients in the new CDC study were hospitalized, five of whom were sent to intensive care. Three children died.
Infants in the United States had a much higher hospitalization rate than any other age group of children. Of 95 infants, 62% were hospitalized. The estimated rate for children aged 1 to 17 was 14% maximum.
“We know that children’s immune responses change over time,” Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases, told Time. “In the first year of life, children do not have the same robust immune response as older children and adults. “
Could “biological factors” make males more sensitive to COVID-19?
A growing body of research has suggested that men die from COVID-19 at higher rates than women.
The World Health Organization has reported that as of March 20, men accounted for approximately 70% of deaths from coronavirus in Western Europe.
According to a March 20 analysis from CNN and the university research group Global Health 50/50, data from five countries with some of the largest epidemics in the world suggest that men are 50% more likely than women to die after a diagnosis. of COVID-19.
An analysis of more than 25,000 cases of coronavirus from the Higher Institute of Health in Rome revealed that male coronavirus patients in Italy had a mortality rate of 8%, compared to 5% for Italian women. The same analysis revealed that men made up a slight majority of coronavirus cases in Italy: around 58%.
Some experts have pointed out that men have higher smoking rates, poorer hygiene on average, and higher rates of pre-existing conditions like diabetes than women.
But 57% of the COVID-19 children in the CDC study were men. Even the infected infants were mostly men. This “suggests that biological factors may play a role in any difference in sex sensitivity to COVID-19,” the study authors wrote.
However, this research is preliminary and the authors work with limited information. Of the 2,572 pediatric cases they analyzed, only 9.4% included information on patient symptoms and only 33% indicated whether or not they had been hospitalized.
The study authors recommended that doctors maintain a “high index of suspicion” for children at risk for COVID-19, especially infants and children with underlying diseases.
“We have to be very careful overall,” Maldonado told Time. “We really don’t know what we’re dealing with here yet. “