Abstract| Volume 58, ISSUE 4, P712-713, April 2020

Epidemiological characteristics of 2143 pediatric patients with 2019 coronavirus disease in China

Dong Y, Mo X, Hu Y, et al. Pediatrics. 2020; doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-0702.
      Novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19) is a pandemic with many countries employing massive public health responses. Little is known about the severity of illness in the pediatric population. This study sought to identify demographic information and severity of disease in pediatric patients with COVID-19.
      This was a retrospective study conducted on patients less than 18 years who were suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 and were reported to the Chinese Centers for Disease Control (China CDC). Children were considered high risk and suspected if they had positive exposure to an endemic area or a confirmed case of COVID-19. High suspicion also included those with fever, respiratory symptoms, digestive symptoms, or fatigue, normal or low white blood cell count and increased C-reactive protein, or abnormal chest radiography, or those at lower risk for whom influenza or other respiratory illnesses were ruled out. Confirmed cases were defined as having a nasopharyngeal swab or blood sample positive via PCR or a genetic sampling of respiratory secretions or blood consistent with SARS-CoV-2. Once identified, patients were categorized by severity of disease using clinical features as well as laboratory and radiographic findings. Severity categories included asymptomatic (no symptoms but positive test), mild (mild respiratory symptoms and normal lung exam), moderate (pneumonia, fever, and cough but without hypoxemia or respiratory distress), severe (above symptoms as well as oxygen saturation less than 92% and respiratory distress), or critical disease (acute respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, shock, or other life-threatening organ dysfunction).
      There were 2143 patients included who were suspected (65.9%) or confirmed (34.1%) to have COVID-19. Median age was 7 years (IQR 2-13) and the majority (56.6%) were male. The median time from onset of symptoms to presentation was 2 days (range 0-42). Nearly all were categorized as asymptomatic (4.4%), mild (50.9%), or moderate (38.8%) severity, leaving only 5.9% as severe or critical. Looking at breakdown by age, infants made up the highest proportion of severe or critical disease (32%) with preschool ages (1-5 years) next with 28.8%. Half (7) of the 13 critical patients were under 1 year old. No significant differences were seen between male or female patients. There was one death in the sample: a 14-year old boy.
      Limitations included lack of clinical characteristics, as only data from the Chinese CDC was used rather than electronic medical records from individual patients. Additionally the majority of cases were suspected, not confirmed, and some of the children remained hospitalized at the end of the study therefore severity of disease may not be accurate. The authors concluded that COVID-19 caused infection in all ages without obvious gender differences, however younger children appeared to have higher severity of disease.
      Comment: This is the largest cohort of pediatric COVID-19 patients to date. This study is based on the China CDC dataset and is limited to the variables that are reported to the CDC. We cannot assume children in the United States will be affected similarly. Overall, this dataset suggests that critical disease is rare in children with COVID-19. Emergency physicians should use caution with infants and young children, however, as they appear to be at highest risk of severe disease and may need closer observation in the emergency department or inpatient admission.