COVID-19 can affect any age group. Nonetheless, during this pandemic, older people are affected more than children. Other viral infections like influenza affect children and elderly people more than the middle-aged population. Death rate due to influenza is also higher in children and older population more than young adults. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this bimodal approach does not seem to apply.
A study from Sweden reviewed 45 research articles on the impact of COVID-19 on children. Based on this study, children represented about 2% of diagnosed cases in China, 1.2% of cases in Italy, and 5% of cases in the United States.
The COVID-19 symptoms seem to be less severe in children than in adults. Symptoms in children are similar to symptoms in adults that include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, and sneezing. Wheezing was more common in children than adults. Increase in respiratory rate and heart rate was more common in children.
In adults, COVID-19 is considered as mild in 81% of the affected people. In children mild to moderate cases are around 90%. Similarly, number of children having severe disease and requiring ICU level of care is significantly lower than adults. Fatality rate or death rate is directly proportionate to the age of the affected individual. The death rate in elderly above 80 years of age seems to be the highest. The death rate gradually drops in middle-aged population and it is even lower in pediatric population.
The table below gives the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Italy and China until March 17, 2020. It clearly depicts that the number of deaths and the percentage of deaths in children is significantly lower when compared to older adults.
Number of deaths in Italy until March 17, 2020 Number of deaths in China until March 17, 2020
COVID-19 is not transmitted during pregnancy or at the time of labor. However, there were few reported cases where newborns acquired the disease from infected mothers. When infected mothers are too close to their newborns, COVID-19 can spread to the newborns.
Overall incidence and fatality rates in children are significantly lower when compared to older adults. COVID-19 symptoms are also milder in children. This is reassuring to the parents that the COVID-19 risk is lower in children. Nonetheless, it is critical to take all the necessary precautions to prevent Novel Coronavirus. As pandemic still did not peak in most of the countries across the globe, there is a potential that age groups affected may alter.
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Onder G et al. Case-Fatality Rate and Characteristics of Patients Dying in Relation to COVID-19 in Italy. JAMA. Published online March 23, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.4683
Zhong hua et al. The epidemiological characteristics of an outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) in China. 2020 Feb 17;41(2):145-151. doi: 10.3760/cma.j.issn.0254-6450.2020.02.003.