The coronavirus has claimed the lives of at least one infant and one teenager, despite the consensus of the medical community that children and teens are more or less immune from the virus, The L.A. Times reports.
Both cases were in China. The infant, who was 10 months old, already had another underlying health condition, a severe bowel blockage, and had experienced multiple organ failures weeks before dying of COVID-19.
The baby was one of 171 infected children being tracked by Chinese health officials. So far, three of those kids have required respiratory support, including the baby, whose death was revealed on Wednesday in a report published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The two surviving patients are also fighting previous health conditions — one has leukemia and the other kidney disease.
Elsewhere in China, the disease also claimed the life of a 14-year-old boy. However, in his case, researchers aren’t revealing whether or not he had an underlying health condition.
What we know about the coronavirus so far is that children and teenagers can and certainly do contract the virus and carry it home to their families. That’s why schools across the world are shut down — not to keep kids from getting sick, but to prevent further spread of the virus.
Health researchers say that children who contract the virus will develop mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. It’s generally been believed the people most at risk to contract COVID-19 are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions such as compromised immune systems.
But now, according to the Chinese researchers who revealed the teenager’s death in a new study this week, that notion that children and teenagers are basically immune to the coronavirus is not absolute.
The study, shared via the medical journal Pediatrics, uncovered other facts about the effects of the virus in children that may help researchers battle the deadly pandemic.
Research revealed that there is little to no difference in how girls and boys react to the virus. Similarly, of the infected children researchers tracked, 4.4 percent had no symptoms; 51% had mild symptoms, such as a cough, sore throat, runny nose and sneezing, and sometimes fever, fatigue and body pain; and 39% were moderately ill, with symptoms like pneumonia and fever.
Though most infected children were able to breathe with little difficulty, doctors were able to hear pockets of fluid in their lungs with a stethoscope.
Meanwhile, researchers still could not fully explain whether the 55 percent of kids who had no symptoms or mild symptoms were able to spread the infection.
“Determination of the transmission potential of these asymptomatic patients is important for guiding the development of measures to control the ongoing pandemic,” the study authors wrote.