Are Kids Dying With COVID-19?

How many children have died with COVID-19?

You have likely heard that COVID-19 is not supposed to make children sick, so what’s with the reports that kids are dying with COVID-19?

“Whereas most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe, serious COVID-19 illness resulting in hospitalization still occurs in this age group.”

Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Children — United States, February 12–April 2, 2020

So far, while fewer than 2% of cases in the United States have occurred in children and teens who are less than 18 years old, some of those “pediatric COVID-19 cases were hospitalized.”

Although this infant did test positive for COVID-19, it’s possible that the baby died from an underlying condition instead.

Some were even admitted to the ICU and tragically, a few have died.

Are Kids Dying With COVID-19?

How many kids?

So far, as of early April, there have been over 45,000 COVID-19 deaths worldwide (all ages), including 5,443 deaths in the United States (all ages).

“In China, the novel coronavirus has claimed the lives of a 10-month-old and a 14-year-old, at least.”

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of an infant and a teenager

And some of those deaths have been in children.

“Three deaths were reported among the pediatric cases included in this analysis; however, review of these cases is ongoing to confirm COVID-19 as the likely cause of death.”

Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Children — United States, February 12–April 2, 2020

It’s important to note that these recent COVID-19 deaths in children are still being investigated, but according to reports they include:

  • a teenager in California who did not have any preexisting conditions
  • a six-week old infant in Connecticut who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 during postmortem testing
  • a young child (under age 5 years) with underlying health conditions in Hamilton County, Tennessee
  • an 11-year-old in Georgia – was an adult with an incorrectly reported age…
  • an infant (under 12 months old) in Chicago
  • a 22-week old premature baby whose mother with COVID-19 went into premature labor (in general, the survival rate at 22 weeks is extremely low, improving as you get closer to 24 to 25 weeks)
  • a 13-year-old in Colorado who had an underlying seizure disorder
  • a 5-year-old in Detroit, Michigan – the daughter of two area first responders

The latest reports of COVID-19 deaths include:

Again, experts have still not confirmed that COVID-19 caused all of these deaths.

“An official cause of death remains outstanding pending toxicology results, and officials said it is possible the child died not from the virus but from an underlying condition, sudden infant death syndrome or positional asphyxiation.”

Questions remain about the death of a Hartford infant, despite governor’s claim death was linked to coronavirus

While it likely seems hard to believe, since we know that children can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and not have symptoms, it should become easier to understand that some pediatric deaths could be unrelated to a positive COVID-19 test.

Of course, that likely won’t mean that they were all unrelated, but still, it is easy to see that there are far, far fewer COVID-19 deaths in children than in adults.

That’s very important to remember if we continue to see the occasional media report of a child dying with COVID-19.

And remember to continue to encourage your kids to follow all social distancing recommendations, as even though they don’t typically get severe disease, kids likely do get mild or asymptomatic disease that they can spread to others.

More on COVID-19 Deaths

What is the COVID-19 Mortality Rate?

Do we know how deadly COVID-19 really is?

Knowing the COVID-19 mortality rate would help folks get a better understanding of just how concerned they should be about this new disease that is quickly spreading around the world.

New modeling from the CDC puts the COVID-19 case fatality rate at 0.1 to 1%.

Unfortunately, the widely different numbers we are hearing might contribute to some of the confusion people already have about the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

What is the COVID-19 Mortality Rate?

In general, the mortality rate for a disease is “the measure of the frequency of occurrence of death in a defined population during a specified interval.”

Defined population?

That’s not how many people have the disease. That’s literally how many people there are in the place you are talking about.

Instead of mortality rate, right now, what we really want to be talking about is the case fatality rate.

“The case-fatality rate is the proportion of persons with a particular condition (cases) who die from that condition. It is a measure of the severity of the condition.”

Mortality Frequency Measures

Still, differences in defining the “population” or cases has lead to differences in reports of case fatality rates from the CDC and WHO.

“There is now a total of 90,893 reported cases of COVID-19 globally, and 3110 deaths.”

WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 3 March 2020

The WHO reports a case fatality rate of 3.4% for COVID-19, which they get by simply dividing the 3,110 deaths by the 90,893 reported cases.

“This crude CFR is high: for comparison, the CFR for seasonal influenza is 0.1%. However, as I will show below, this number is not a one-size-fits all, and is influenced by many factors. Please do not look at 3.4% as an indicator of your risk of dying from COVID-19!”

SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus case fatality ratio

The CDC, on the other hand, is using a method that factors in the idea that there are likely many more mild cases that haven’t been officially reported. That gets them a much lower case fatality rate rate of 0.1 to 1%.

Only more testing will get us a more accurate case fatality rate for COVID-19.
Only more testing will get us a more accurate case fatality rate for COVID-19.

Then there is the large study on COVID-19 case fatality rates that did include suspected and asymptomatic cases, Characteristics of and Important Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China. They found an overall case-fatality rate (CFR) of 2.3%.

“Epidemiologists think and quibble in terms of numerators and denominators—which patients were included when fractional estimates were calculated, which weren’t, were those decisions valid—and the results change a lot as a result.”

COVID-19 Isn’t As Deadly As We Think

What do these numbers mean to you?

They might be easier to understand if you compare the case fatality rate of COVID-19 to some other diseases.

DiseaseCase Fatality Rate
Rabies99.9%
H5N1 bird flu60%
Ebola50%
MERS34%
H7N9 bird flu25%
SARS15%
Yellow fever15%
Tetanus13%
Diphtheria5-10%
1918 flu pandemic1-3%
COVID-19*0.1-3%
2009 flu pandemic0.1%
Seasonal flu0.1%
Measles0.1%
A high case fatality rate doesn’t tell the whole story. It is also important to understand how likely it is for a disease to spread and get a lot of people sick. And a reminder that many vaccine preventable diseases are quite deadly!

Fortunately, COVID-19 is near the bottom of the list, and as we get more and more data, it seems like the official case fatality rate will continue to drop.

Still, since it is spreading at pandemic levels, that means a lot of people will get sick and could die, especially those in high risk groups.

Older people and people with severe chronic health conditions are likely at higher risk COVID-19 infections.
Older people and people with severe chronic health conditions are likely at higher risk for COVID-19 infections.

*How many? It’s too early to tell, as we really don’t know what the real COVID-19 case fatality rate is yet.

“Practice everyday preventive behaviors! Stay home when sick. Cover coughs and sneezes. Frequently wash hands with soap and water. Clean frequently touched surfaces.”

Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities

That makes it important to take steps to try and slow down the spread of SARS-CoV-2, especially to people who are at high risk.

More on the COVID-19 Fatality Rate