The report, released Monday, examines 149,760 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Less than 2% of these cases – 2,572 – involved children. To date, three children have died from COVID-19 in the country. The CDC analyzed the cases of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and four American territories between February 12 and April 2.
“This is certainly the first step in understanding what COVID-19 disease looks like in children,” said CDC epidemiologist Dr. Tamara Pilishvili and one of the report’s authors. “In terms of our results, the disease in children tends to be milder than that seen in adults. This is consistent with previous reports in China and Italy summarizing COVID diseases. “
Studies in China since the emergence of the coronavirus in December show that the virus has been less severe in children. But serious illnesses can still occur, leading to hospitalization and intensive care – something that has also been seen in the United States, said Pilishvili.
In the United States, more than two-thirds of adults studied reported fever, cough, or shortness of breath as symptoms of COVID-19, compared to just over half of children.
The data shows that 213 children reported fever, cough or shortness of breath, compared to 10,167 adults. Of the overall cases involving children with known symptoms, 56% reported fever, 54% cough and 13% shortness of breath.
In contrast, among adults, 71% reported fevers, 80% had a cough and 43% had shortness of breath. The adults in the study were 18 to 64 years of age.
“These data support previous findings that children with COVID-19 may not have reported fever or cough as often as adults,” said the report. “While most cases of COVID-19 in children are not serious, serious COVID-19 disease leading to hospitalization still occurs in this age group. “
Some local experts have criticized the CDC study as too small to show how widespread the virus is in children, especially those who have no symptoms but can be infected.
“This confirms a lot of what many of us think and follows patterns that we are already seeing at the local level,” said Yvonne Maldonado, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stanford University. “We don’t really know, yet, if there are a number of symptomless children who could be infected. “
CDC officials acknowledged that their study was limited. For example, information on symptoms was only available for 9.4% of patients, and information on the number of people with underlying conditions was only available for 13% of patients.
Pilishvili said that as more cases are reported to the CDC, more analysis will be available.
Infectious disease expert Rachel Wattier said tests play a role in data. In the early stages of the pandemic, children were more likely to be tested if they were symptomatic or if they came into contact with an adult who tested positive – as was the case in the first reports from from China.
“I think at the end of the day, when we are able to test more widely and follow more children, we will probably learn a lot more about the true spectrum of the disease,” said Wattier.
Information on the number of children hospitalized was only available for 29% of the cases of minors studied by the CDC.
But in this group, about one in five children had to be hospitalized, or 145 of the 745 cases. Among the hospitalized children, 15 were admitted to intensive care. Children under one year of age accounted for 40% of hospitalizations for COVID-19 pediatric patients, or 59 cases. Of these, five were admitted to an intensive care unit.
In comparison, between 10% and 33% of adults aged 18 to 64 ended up in hospital and 1.4% to 4.5% were admitted to intensive care.
The CDC report noted that social distancing is important in preventing the spread of the virus in all age groups.
“While we see a milder disease in children – and children with COVID disease seem to be less likely to have a fever (and) with cough than adults – they can still spread the infection,” a said Pilishvili. “Therefore, social isolation and other preventive behaviors are recommended for all age groups. “
Sarah Ravani is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SarRavani