Kids and COVID-19

Kids might not be at big risk from COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean that they are immune from stress and anxiety from hearing about it all of the time.

One good piece of news that is easy to pick out from all of the doom and gloom about COVID-19 is that kids don’t really seem to be at extra risk from this new disease.

“In this preliminary description of pediatric U.S. COVID-19 cases, relatively few children with COVID-19 are hospitalized, and fewer children than adults experience fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Severe outcomes have been reported in children, including three deaths.”

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

So far, fewer than 2% of cases in the United States have occurred in children and teens who are less than 18 years old. And of those who did get COVID-19, “relatively few pediatric COVID-19 cases were hospitalized” and even were admitted to the ICU.

Many did not even have a fever or cough!

That’s good news, as kids are often in high risk groups and at extra risk for other infectious diseases, like flu, measles, and RSV.

Kids and COVID-19

So why don’t kids get infected by SARS-CoV-2 more often?

“There have been very few reports of the clinical outcomes for children with COVID-19 to date. Limited reports from China suggest that children with confirmed COVID-19 may present with mild symptoms and though severe complications (acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon.”

Children and COVID-19

Well, we actually don’t know how many kids are getting SARS-CoV-2…

Right now, it just seems like most don’t get severe disease, but because of limited testing and a priority going to those with severe disease, it may be that many more kids are infected than we know.

“Though the evidence to date suggests this virus doesn’t inflict severe disease on children, there’s reason to think kids may be helping to amplify transmission. It’s a role they play to devastating effect during flu season, becoming ill and passing flu viruses on to their parents, grandparents, teachers, and caregivers.”

A critical question in getting a handle on coronavirus: What role do kids play in spreading it?

They could just be getting very mild disease or infection without symptoms.

While that’s certainly reassuring, we can’t ignore the possibility that kids could get and spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others in high risk groups, including older people and people with severe chronic health conditions.

“If parents seem overly worried, children’s anxiety may rise. Parents should reassure children that health and school officials are working hard to ensure that people throughout the country stay healthy. However, children also need factual, age appropriate information about the potential seriousness of disease risk and concrete instruction about how to avoid infections and spread of disease.”

Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource

And we shouldn’t forget that there is one thing that children aren’t immune to right now – anxiety from hearing about COVID-19 all of the time!

More on Kids and COVID-19

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

Should You Be Tested for COVID-19?

More tests for COVID-19 are now available, but not everyone needs to be tested, especially if they don’t have symptoms.

As SARS-CoV-2 infections continue to spread, many people are probably wondering if they should be tested for COVID-19.

“To learn if you have a current infection, viral tests are used. Most people have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms are getting worse or if you have questions about your health.​​”

CDC on Testing for COVID-19

While it might sound like a good idea, especially if there are many COVID-19 cases in your area, getting tested for SARS-CoV-2 isn’t as easy as you might think it should be…

Should You Be Tested for COVID-19?

What’s the biggest problem with getting tested for SARS-CoV-2?

Since this is a new infection, a new test had to be developed to detect it.

And believe it or not, that test is still not widely available.

“The California Department of Public Health announced today that new CDC test kits used to detect Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) now available in California can be used to do diagnostic testing in the community. California will immediately receive an additional shipment of kits to test up to 1,200 people.”

COVID-19 Testing Kits Arrive at State Public Health Laboratories

While more and more communities now have COVID-19 test kits, getting tested often still means a long wait for the test and an even longer wait for the results.

The CDC is now shipping its laboratory test kit for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to qualified state and local public health laboratories.
The CDC is now shipping its laboratory test kit for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to qualified state and local public health laboratories.

But what happens if you think that you have COVID-19?

Can you get tested?

While there were originally strict criteria for who could get a test, including folks with COVID-19 symptoms, those who had contact with a known case, and anyone with recent travel to a hot spot, it has gotten to where almost anyone can get a test.

Not everyone needs a test though…

“Can someone test negative and later test positive on a viral test for COVID-19?

Yes, it is possible. You may test negative if the sample was collected early in your infection and test positive later during this illness. You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and get infected then. Even if you test negative, you still should take steps to protect yourself and others.”

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Should you get tested if you were exposed to someone with COVID-19?

While it might seem like a good idea, understand that if you test negative, it doesn’t mean that you won’t develop symptoms and test positive later on in your incubation period (up to 14 days).

Are you going to get tested every day?

So no, you probably don’t need to be tested simply because you were exposed. You should self-quarantine yourself though and can consider testing if you later develop symptoms.

And you likely don’t need to get tested if you weren’t a close contact (within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes) of someone with COVID-19. Besides the fact that testing is still limited and should likely be reserved for those with symptoms, a negative test one day simply means that you are negative that day. Again, you could develop symptoms the next day or even later that day…

What Tests Are Used to Diagnose Covid-19?

If you are going to get tested for COVID-19, do make sure you get the right test though.

“A viral test tells you if you have a current infection.”

CDC on Testing for COVID-19

You want to get a viral test (preferably the PCR test, as it is more reliable than the antigen test), and not the antibody test (blood test), which detects past infections.

Remember though, since there is no specific treatment for COVID-19, the only thing a positive test does is reinforce your need for self-isolation.

“For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses.”

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Testing can help identify folks who really need to be quarantined, keeping them from getting others sick, and it can help with contact tracing.

While that can be useful, it is also important to understand that the COVID-19 tests can have false-negative results. So if you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay in quarantine even if you have a negative test.

What to Know About COVID-19 Testing

More tests for COVID-19 are now available, but not everyone needs to be tested, especially if they don’t have symptoms.

More on COVID-19 Testing

COVID-19 Hype or Hazard

Hopefully you are concerned, but aren’t panicking about the new coronavirus that is all over the news right now.

Breaking News: we have seen community spread in the US, at least nine 41 deaths, and more cases in more states. (see below)

What do you think of the news of the 2019 novel coronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)?

Experts say don't panic about the 2019 novel coronavirus.

Are you ready to put on a mask, never leave your home, or just wait and see what happens?

COVID-19 Hype or Hazard

Hopefully you are concerned, but aren’t panicking and want to wait and see what happens over the next few days, weeks, and months.

So what’s going on?

A new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in Wuhan, China and it is spreading, killing some people.

Why is this a concern?

While there are coronaviruses that are very common, even causing many cases of the common cold, there are others that are much more serious.

Seasonal coronavirus are very common during cold and flu season.
Seasonal coronavirus are very common during cold and flu season.

These include the coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS.

A worldwide outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by SARS-CoV caused 8,098 cases and 774 deaths in 2002-03. It also started in China.

MERS-CoV, which causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has been causing cases and deaths since 2012.

What’s Next With COVID-19?

Why are experts concerned about SARS-CoV-2?

Check for Travel Alerts and Warnings before your next trip.
Check for Travel Alerts and Warnings before your next trip.

Mostly because of past experiences with SARS and MERS.

There is also the fact that there is no treatment or vaccine for 2019-nCoV.

Coronavirus that shows up on those large respiratory panels that some health providers do is seasonal coronavirus = the common cold.
Coronavirus that shows up on those large respiratory panels that some health providers do is seasonal coronavirus = the common cold.

And no, your doctor won’t be able to routinely test you for SARS-CoV-2. Testing can be done for those who are high risk, but it still involves sending the specimens to a lab at your local or state health department or the CDC.

That shouldn’t put you into panic mode though…

“Two cases of 2019-nCoV have been reported in the United States. Both patients had recently returned from Wuhan, China. More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States.”

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Unless you have recently traveled to Wuhan, China an area where there is a COVID-19 outbreak or have had close contract with someone who traveled to an area with a lot of cases while they were sick, then you likely aren’t at much risk to get sick with this virus.

“For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.”

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary

It is certainly not something to ignore though.

Since first being detected in Wuhan, China on December 29, 2019, cases have spread to 28 41 46 64 72 134 other countries.

“More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States.”

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary

Most experts expect SARS-CoV-2 to become a pandemic, but that still shouldn’t put you into panic mode…

Experts are also working to learn more so that we know:

  • the original source of the virus – is it the animal markets in Wuhan, China?
  • the incubation period – it seems to be 1 to 14 days
  • how contagious the virus can be and how it spreads – close contact
  • how serious are the complications of infection or how deadly is this virus – so far, “reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death,” but the latest worldwide mortality rate of 1.4 to 3.4% is much higher than seasonal flu
  • can the virus be contained – this seems unlikely…

We got one answer recently, as it seems that people with the virus are contagious before they have symptoms.

What’s next?

Don’t panic. Plan ahead.

Stay up to date on SARS-CoV-2 information and call your health care provider if you have flu-like symptoms and recently traveled to Wuhan, China or had contact with someone who is under investigation for COVID-19.

“Limited reports of children with COVID-19 in China have described cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting and diarrhea) have been reported in at least one child with COVID-19. These limited reports suggest that children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms, and though severe complications (e.g., acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon.”

CDC on Frequently Asked Questions and Answers: Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) and Children

And even if you are starting to get nervous, at least you don’t have to worry too much about your kids. So far, there is no evidence that children are more susceptible to COVID-19 and there are reports that they actually get milder symptoms!

Lastly, if you haven’t yet, be sure to get a flu vaccine.

Affected geographic areas include China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, and Japan.
As we see community spread in more areas, the criteria to guide evaluation of PUI for COVID-19 continues to loosen up.

If you are going to develop a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness during cold and flu season in the United States, especially if you haven’t traveled to a high risk area, then it is probably the flu, not the new coronavirus…

More on COVID-19 Hype or Hazard