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Coronavirus in kids is rare and mostly mild, though serious cases can happen

Children with coronavirus may not develop the telltale signs seen in adults, including fever and cough.
Image: A woman adjusts the face mask of a child in the East Village neighborhood of New York on March 19, 2020.
A woman adjusts the mask of a child in the East Village in Manhattan on March 19, 2020.Wong Maye-E / AP file

Coronavirus cases among children have been documented, but according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these cases are rare.

What's more, children don't appear to develop fever and cough — two common symptoms of the illness — as often as adults.

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The CDC report, published Monday, looks at data from 149,082 cases of COVID-19, the illness that results from coronavirus infection, in the U.S.

All cases were reported from mid-February through April 2. Less than 2 percent of those cases (2,572) were reported in children and teenagers under 18.

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Of those pediatric cases, one third of the cases involved older teens, ages 15 to 17. About 15 percent of the cases were in babies less than a year old.

Slightly more than half of the cases were in boys.

Although researchers had scant details about the children's symptoms, it appears fever and cough weren't reported as often as they are in adult patients.

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In cases where symptoms were known, just over half had fever or cough, and 13 percent said they were short of breath. Fever, cough and shortness of breath are all common COVID-19 symptoms among adults, according to the CDC.

Similarly, the study authors only had limited information on whether the children in the analysis had underlying conditions. That information was available for 345 of the cases; among those, asthma was the most commonly reported chronic health issue.

Hospitalization data was available for less than one third of the total pediatric cases, and of those, 147 children were hospitalized.

Three children included in the analysis died, though investigators need to confirm the cause of death.

The findings for children are not a surprise, and are "largely consistent with a report on pediatric COVID-19 patients" ages 16 or younger in China.

In that study, fewer than half reported fever and cough. Hospitalization was rare, and less than 2 percent were admitted to an intensive care unit. The illness resulted in mild or moderate symptoms in most children in that research.

Though mild cases in children are certainly a good thing, it does mean that they can spread disease to others.

"Because persons with asymptomatic and mild disease, including children, are likely playing a role in transmission and spread of COVID-19 in the community, social distancing and everyday preventive behaviors are recommended" for everyone, the CDC study authors wrote.

By Monday afternoon, more than 300,000 people in the U.S. had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and nearly 10,000 people had died.

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