Children are not immune: A pediatric infectious disease expert clears up COVID-19 misinformation

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – As children return to school this fall, it can be hard to sort out misinformation about COVID-19’s impact on children. As part of our Academics Amid the Pandemic Special Report, ABC4 News spoke to Dr. Andrew Pavia, with the University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, to clear up the misconceptions about the virus in kids.

We have heard the claims that children are “virtually immune” to the Coronavirus, but, that is not the case according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a report released in early August, the American Academy of Pediatrics found there were more than 380,000 (380,174) cases reported in children in the U.S. since the pandemic began. Nearly 180,000 (179,990) new COVID-19 cases were reported in children in just the weeks between July 9th and August 6th. That’s a 90% increase compared to all of the previously reported cases in children.

Dr. Pavia said children are less likely than adults to become severely ill if infected with Coronavirus, but it is more complicated than just that.

Age matters. According to Dr. Pavia, children under two months of age are reasonably likely to end up in the hospital if they become infected. Teenagers, too, are at risk of becoming severely ill.

Dr. Pavia said he knows of 90 children that have died of Coronavirus, as of August 12.

“It’s a tiny fraction of deaths in the United States,” he said, “but it’s a mistake to think that kids are immune.”

“We’ve seen quite a few children hospitalized at Primary Children’s,” said Pavia. “A few children have ended up in the ICU with the acute infection.”

There is also a complication that can occur later on in children called multi-symptom inflammatory syndrome that could be more severe than the virus itself. Dr. Pavia said it is “quite rare” but can last for up to a month after the initial infection.

Are children just as likely to become infected as adults? Dr. Pavia said that is also a complicated question as “virtually everything with Coronavirus is.”

He said there is mixed data when it comes to younger children, and, while it may be less likely for them to become infected, it is still possible for them to contract the virus. Teenagers, like adults, become infected relatively easily.

“Yes, children are relatively spared when compared to adults,” said Dr. Pavia. “But, it’s cold comfort if it’s your child who gets really sick.”

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