Children are unlikely to fall seriously ill with coronavirus and the risk of them dying from the disease is ‘very low’, another study has confirmed.
Researchers from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London looked at more than 582 children aged three and above who were diagnosed with Covid-19 across Europe during the height of the crisis in April.
The study found that, out of 363 children who went to hospital for treatment, fewer than one in 10 (8 per cent) needed intensive care.
Four patients (0.68 per cent) died during the research — but academics cautioned the study only included patients who sought help and were tested for Covid-19.
This means milder cases would not have been included. For this reason they advise against extrapolating the numbers observed in their study to the wider population.
They say if milder cases were taken into consideration, the risk of being hospitalised or dying from Covid-19 for children would be drastically reduced.
Lead researcher Dr Marc Tebruegge, from the University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health in London, said the findings were ‘reassuring’.
It comes after analysis of UK Government by a top Cambridge University statistician revealed children under 14 have a one in 3million chance of dying from Covid.
For comparison, the risk for over-75s is about one in 1,000 and for those over 90 it is one in 50, according to Sir David Spiegelhalter.
Children are unlikely to fall seriously ill with coronavirus and the risk of them dying from the disease is ‘very low’, another study has confirmed (file)
He added: ‘Our study provides the most comprehensive overview of Covid-19 in children and adolescents to date.
‘We were reassured to observe that the case fatality rate in our cohort was very low and it is likely to be substantially lower still, given that many children with mild disease would not have been brought to medical attention and therefore not included in this study.
‘Overall, the vast majority of children and young people experience only mild disease.
‘Nevertheless, a notable number of children do develop severe disease and require intensive care support, and this should be accounted for when planning and prioritising healthcare resources as the pandemic progresses.’
The study – published in the journal Lancet Child & Adolescent Health – was carried out over a three-and-a-half week period from April 1 to April 24, when most of Europe was battling their crises’ peak.
It involved 82 specialist healthcare institutions across 25 European countries, including the UK, Spain and Austria. Only a quarter of the children had pre-existing medical conditions.
This contrasts with adult studies where the proportion of patients with co-morbidities is typically far higher.
But this likely reflects that children have fewer chronic medical problems than adults overall in the general population, the authors say.
The researchers found that the most common symptom reported was fever (65 per cent) , while around half of the infected children had signs of upper respiratory tract infection (54 per cent). A quarter had evidence of pneumonia.
Gastrointestinal symptoms were reported in around a fifth of the children (22 per cent). Some 92 children, most of whom were tested due to close contact with a known Covid-19 case, had no symptoms at all (16 per cent).
The vast majority of patients did not require oxygen or any other support to help them breathe at any stage (87 per cent).
Only 25 children needed mechanical ventilation (4 per cent), but when they did need it, that support was typically required for a prolonged period, often for a week or more.
A total of 29 children were found to be infected with one or more additional respiratory viruses at the same time as SARS-CoV-2, such as ones that cause a cold or a strain of influenza.
Of these, 24 per cent required intensive care compared with 7 per cent of children who had Covid-19 on its own.
Co-author Dr Begona Santiago-Garcia, one of the lead authors from University Hospital Gregorio Maranón in Madrid, Spain, said: ‘This is the first study of children with Covid-19 to include data from multiple countries and multiple centres.
‘Of note, we found that children in whom additional viruses were detected in the respiratory tract at the same time as SARS-CoV-2 were more likely to be admitted to intensive care.
‘This could have important implications for the upcoming winter season, when cold and flu infections will be more common.’
Four patients died during the study period, two of whom had pre-existing medical conditions. All of the patients who died were older than 10 years of age.
However, the overwhelming majority of patients were alive when the study closed (99 per cent), with only 25 (4 per cent) still experiencing symptoms or needing support for their breathing.
At the time the study was conducted, testing capacity in many European countries was lower than demand, and so many children with Covid-19 and mild symptoms would not have been tested or diagnosed.
Different countries were using different criteria to screen for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Some were screening all children admitted to hospital while others were more selective in which patients were offered a test.
This lack of standardisation makes it difficult to generalise the findings to the wider population, the authors say.
But the true case fatality rate in children is likely substantially lower than that observed in this study (0.69 per cent), they concluded.
Co-author Dr Florian Götzinger, from the Wilhelminenspital hospital in Vienna, Austria, added: ‘Although Covid-19 affects children less severely than adults overall, our study shows that there are severe cases in all age groups.
‘Those who have pre-existing health issues and children under one month of age were more likely to be admitted to intensive care.
‘Well-designed, randomised controlled studies on antiviral and immunomodulatory drugs in children are needed to enable evidence-based decisions regarding treatment for children with severe Covid-19.’
UK Government figures show school children under the age of 15 have a ‘tiny’ one-in-3.5million chance of dying from coronavirus and are more likely to be hit by lightning.
Analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows the death rate for youngsters aged five to 14 in England and Wales is around one in 3.5million.
For under-5s it is one in 2.3million — only 14 people aged under 19 have died with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 since the start of the outbreak.
In comparison, between 30 and 60 people are hit by lightning every year in the UK, according to figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.