Posted on May 15, 2020, 11 a.m.
Even children can face severe complications and death from COVID-19, most of the children admitted to pediatric ICU have had underlying conditions. According to this report children, teens, and young adults are at greater risk than what was previously thought according to a recent study.
"The idea that COVID-19 is sparing of young people is just false," said study coauthor Lawrence C. Kleinman, professor and vice chair for academic development and chief of the Department of Pediatrics' Division of Population Health, Quality and Implementation Science at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "While children are more likely to get very sick if they have other chronic conditions, including obesity, it is important to note that children without chronic illness are also at risk. Parents need to continue to take the virus seriously."
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics is the first to describe the characteristics of seriously ill COVID-19 pediatric patients within North America, it followed 48 young children and young adults between the ages of being newborn to 21 years of age who were admitted to pediatric ICUs for COVID-19 in Canada and America during March and April 2020. Over 80% of these patients had underlying conditions such as obesity, diabetes, immune suppression, seizures, or chronic lung disease, of those 40% depended on technological support due to developmental delays or genetic anomalies.
Over 20% of these young patients experienced failure of 2 or more organs systems due to COVID-19, and nearly 40% required either a breathing tube or ventilator. Nearly 33% of the children were still hospitalized due to COVID-19 at the end of the follow up period, with 3 still requiring ventilator support and 1 on life support; and 2 of the children admitted during the 3 week study period lost their battle with this disease.
"This study provides a baseline understanding of the early disease burden of COVID-19 in pediatric patients," said Hariprem Rajasekhar, a pediatric intensivist involved in conducting the study at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School's Department of Pediatrics. "The findings confirm that this emerging disease was already widespread in March and that it is not universally benign among children."
The hospital outcomes for children in this study was 4.2% mortality rate for PICU patients with a lower rate for incidences of respiratory failure, compared to a reported 62% among adults admitted to ICUs. Physicians in the New York Metropolitan area are reporting seeing what appears to be a new COVID-19 related syndrome in children.
"Although our data collection for this study has ended, we continue to develop collaborations with colleagues in our region and across the country to try to understand these more severe complications," he said, citing concerns such as heart failure and the Kawasaki disease-like condition termed pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome as examples.
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