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COVID-19 Research Indicates Infection is Less Severe in Children

Based on data from China in February 2020, researchers say the impacts of COVID-19 on children appear to be minimal

Rachel Muenz

Rachel Muenz, managing editor for G2 Intelligence, can be reached at

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With the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus negatively impacting many aspects of our daily lives, there is some positive news coming out of a recent expert review in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

Looking at data from China in February 2020, researchers said in their review that while children are just as likely to become infected as adults are, their symptoms are often mild and those infected are less likely to require hospitalization. Researchers pointed out that children and adolescents made up only two percent of the Chinese cases requiring hospitalization in February 2020.

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"Most infected children recover one to two weeks after the onset of symptoms, and no deaths had been reported by February 2020," write Petra Zimmerman, MD, PhD, of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland and Nigel Curtis, FRCPCH, PhD, of the University of Melbourne, Australia. 

They add that children are more likely to become infected through someone in their household and may also develop gastrointestinal symptoms more often than adults.

"The importance of children in transmitting the virus remains uncertain." Zimmerman and Curtis add, stating that because children show no or few symptoms, they are less likely to be tested for COVID-19, meaning the current numbers of infected children may not be accurate.

Their review also summarizes the work currently being done in developing vaccines and drugs for COVID-19 and the key strategies being taken in developing those therapies.

Effect of COVID-19 on newborns

In other work published in Frontiers in Pediatrics, researchers said it does not seem that COVID-19 can pass from pregnant mothers to their babies at birth. The study is the second to confirm that finding. The first can be seen here

The latest study followed four mothers infected with the virus who gave birth at Wuhan's Union Hospital. None of the newborns developed serious symptoms and tests of three of the babies for COVID-19 came back negative, while the fourth was not tested as the child’s mother did not grant permission. All four of the mothers completely recovered from the virus and their newborns remain healthy, the researchers said, adding that more research into COVID-19 and its effect on pregnant women and their babies are needed.

COVID-19—caused by the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)—was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As of early afternoon Mar. 16, there were just over 168,000 confirmed cases of the disease worldwide and just over 6,600 deaths from the illness, according to WHO’s Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Situation dashboard.