The study, published Aug. 27 in the BMJ, also showed that Black children have a disproportionately high rate of severe COVID-19 illness.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 651 children and teens with COVID-19 who were admitted to 138 hospitals in England, Scotland and Wales between mid-January and early July.
During a minimum follow-up of two weeks, 18% of the patients were admitted to critical care, with the highest risk among those who were Black, younger than 1 month of age or between 10 and 14 years old.
Six children — 1% — died in the hospital, and all of these patients had significant underlying health issues. That death rate is “strikingly low” compared with 27% across all ages over the same time period, the study authors said in a journal news release.
Eleven percent of the young patients met World Health Organization criteria for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare condition believed to be linked to COVID-19. These children were older — average age was 10.7 years — and more likely to be non-white, the findings showed.
Children with MIS-C were more likely to be admitted to critical care have symptoms such as fatigue, headache, muscle pain and sore throat and have a low blood platelet count, according to the study. There were, however, no deaths among patients with MIS-C.
The study provides a detailed picture of the clinical characteristics, risk factors and outcomes of COVID-19 in children, and should also help refine WHO criteria for MIS-C, according to lead author Malcolm Semple, a professor of outbreak medicine and child health at the University of Liverpool, and colleagues.
Children and teens account for between 1% and 2% of COVID-19 cases worldwide, and the vast majority of reported infections in these young people are mild or asymptomatic.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 and kids.
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