Study finds kids may be under-counted in coronavirus data

Posted at 8:22 PM, Apr 14, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- A new study reveals children may be under-counted in Coronavirus data.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, estimated that for every child in a pediatric intensive care unit with COVID-19, there could be more than 2,300 children in the community infected.

"We know that even a small risk can result in a large number of children and families infected so we felt as though considering all of those factors there was a lack of attention," said Jason Salemi, an author on the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at USF's College of Public Health.

The study used information from two Chinese studies that looked at the severity of pediatric cases and under-detection of the virus, as well as US data from a PICU registry identifying those with COVID19. The study looked to estimate under different scenarios of a percent of the US population becoming infected, how many children would have COVID-19, require hospitalizaton and intensive care.

"If you look at our lower end estimate of 0.5 percent of the population getting infected we estimated there were going to be 109 children who end up in a pediatric intensive care unit," said Salemi.

The study projects if a quarter of the population became infected, more than 5,000 children could require PICU admission.

"We know a large proportion go undetected but based on our estimates there’s a lot of children already in the United States who are infected. As I’ve said before although I’m very cautiously optimistic that you know some of those higher end projections we use in our study I’m hoping we’re not gonna come anywhere near those because although I think we got a late start in this country in responding I do believe that people are starting to heed the advice of scientific experts," Salemi said.

According to data from the Florida Department of Health, there are 257 cases of COVID19 in people 0-14 years old of the more than 20,000 cases in Florida residents, as of Tuesday morning.

"I think that that study may be underestimating the number of children infected with COVID19 because in that study their estimates are based upon data of cases reported among children in China and we think that a lot of kids that had it who probably never even tested because they weren’t sick enough. So the same thing’s probably happening here," said Dr. Juan Dumois, a pediatric infectious diseases physician with Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.

Dumois said they aren't seeing much coronavirus cases and most of the kids who come to their emergency center with coronavirus-type systems are testing negative and have something else, though.

"Kids can catch Coronavirus just like they can catch many other viruses they are not likely to get very sick but there are some children who do get very sick have to be hospitalized and some might even up in intensive care. We think that’s generally gonna happen in the younger children especially those under 1 year of age and children who have underlying medical conditions," he said.

The takeaways from some experts are to continue with mitigation practices.

"We want to make sure this kind of information puts children on the radar of kind of all the decision makers that are out there we want to make sure hospitals have specific protocols that are in place we want to make sure parents are getting access to good infectious control information," said Salemi.