MONDAY, Nov. 23, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- COVID-19 is mild is most children, a new study says, but certain children have a higher risk of severe illness.
Of more than 135,000 children tested for the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) at seven children's hospitals in the United States up to September, 4% were found to be infected.
Those most likely to test positive included children from ethnic minorities, teens, those with history of public insurance, and those with certain underlying medical conditions.
Similar risk factors were noted in the 6.7% of infected children who developed severe COVID-19 and were hospitalized with respiratory, cardiovascular or COVID-19-specific symptoms. Of those, 27.6% required intensive care and 9.2% required mechanical ventilation.
Eight of the children who tested positive died, a fatality rate of 0.15%. The risk of death was strongly associated with having numerous complex preexisting medical conditions.
Children with a progressive long-term medical condition were nearly six times more likely to develop severe illness, and the risk was 1.5 to three times higher among Black children, those younger than 1 and older than 12, and those with a history of public insurance.
The researchers also found that Black, Hispanic and Asian children were less likely to get tested, but were two to four times more likely to test positive than white children.
"While the overall risk is low in this group of children, we see significant disparities in those who are testing positive and developing severe disease, which follows what we see in adults," said study author Hanieh Razzaghi, assistant director of the PEDSnet Data Coordinating Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
PEDSnet is national pediatric health network that includes more than 7 million patients.
"Future studies need to evaluate to what extent the higher rate of positive test results reflects different testing strategies across patient groups, as well as different social determinants of risk, like exposure to air pollution and likelihood of family continuing to work at in-person essential jobs," Razzaghi said in a hospital news release.
"Similarly, it is important to understand differences in the biology of infection that cause different rates of symptoms between patients, so we can best protect children at higher risk," she added.
The study was published Nov. 23 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
For more on children and COVID-19, see the American Academy of Pediatrics.
SOURCE: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, news release, Nov. 23, 2020