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Coronavirus Rates In Children Growing Faster Than In Adults

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Over the summer, coronavirus cases have increased faster in children and teens than in the general population.

"Schools have been shut down since mid-March. So (children in school) haven't had that true exposure," says Allegheny Health Network Pediatric Alliance pediatrician Dr. Michael Petrosky. "Cohorts of kids are coming together in a small enclosed space."

The American Academy of Pediatrics looked at state numbers from May 21 to Aug. 20. Case, hospitalization, and death rates grew faster in kids and teens compared to adults.

  • Coronavirus cases: up 270 percent for the population, up 720 percent for children
  • Coronavirus hospitalizations: up 122 percent for the population, up 356 percent for children
  • Coronavirus deaths: up 115 percent for the population, up 229 percent for children

"Each state reported things a little bit differently. Some reported kids up to 24, some up to 17," says Dr. Petrosky. "The high percentage were in kids 10 to 19 years of age."

A noted pattern was the more community spread in a particular part of the country, the more infections among children. Young children do not seem to catch or spread the coronavirus as much as adults and tend to have a milder illness.

But it still does happen. For instance, hundreds were infected at a sleepaway camp in Georgia, where the younger kids, ages 6 to 10, were more likely to get it.

"When we take care of the kid in front of us, we also have to think of the community," says Dr. Petrosky. "Kids are social creatures. They can't be locked away forever, but we have to do slow increments to keep them as protected as we can."

The serious inflammatory illness in children, though, is still rare.

"Even though it's rare, it doesn't mean it's off the radar. Something we've definitely paying attention to. Although something's rare, if it's your kid, it's not rare," Dr. Petrosky says.

The total number of children infected has doubled since early July when the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended reopening schools.

"I don't think we need to be at all in-person learning at this point now. I wouldn't feel comfortable with that now. But I think we need to have a short leash. And if cases start climbing back up, we have to be able to act quickly," says Dr. Petrosky.

In late May, about 5 percent of cases in the U.S. were kids. In late August, that rose to 9 percent.

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