When it comes to the new coronavirus, children have largely survived. They may be infected and spread the virus, but their risk of serious illness or death is small. However, just like adults, their symptoms may last long after the initial infection. This condition, officially known as the acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), is often referred to as “long-term” COVID-19.
Alok Patel, a pediatrician at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, says it needs to be taken seriously. “Even though COVID itself-the acute infection-is less severe in children, long-term COVID-19 is very fragile, isolated and scary for families.”
Why are we talking about this now?
Vaccination is changing the demographic structure of the pandemic. As more and more adults are vaccinated, the proportion of cases among children and young people is increasing. The absolute number of cases in children is still lower than at the peak of the pandemic, but the rate of infection among children is not as fast as adults.
That makes sense. As the virus is still spreading, “it will hit the most vulnerable people, the people who have not been vaccinated,” Sean O’Leary, Vice Chairman of the AAP Infectious Diseases Committee, told NPRChildren under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, and the vaccination rate for young people who can be vaccinated is the lowest in the United States. Patel said: “These post-coronavirus symptoms in adults have caused a lot of attention.” But “we haven’t got the type of reliable data we really need in the pediatric population.” This is slowly starting to change.
How common is long-term Covid among children?
This is the problem-we just don’t know. Alicia Johnston, an infectious disease expert and head of the post-coronavirus clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital, said: “There is very little good, peer-reviewed published medical literature on this topic.” A few do exist. Studies report very different ratios.
For example, Italian researchers surveyed 109 caregivers of infected children and found 42% of children have at least one symptom Two months after the diagnosis. Four months later, this number dropped to 27%.