According to analysis by Shanghai Children's Medical Centre researches, mild cases of COVID-19 looked much like a common cold among children with fever, fatigue, runny nose, sore throat and sneezing. It provides a clearer portrait of how the youngest patients are affected by the virus, knowledge that experts say can help influence policies like school closures, hospital preparedness and the deployment of an eventual treatment and vaccine.
The study, as reported by The New York Times, focuses on China as the epicenter of COVID-19, and looks at 2,143 cases of children who were infected with the disease and reported their illness to the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of February 8. About another third had moderate symptoms, including pneumonia or lung problems. About 4% had no symptoms at all. Among the small number (5.9 per cent) of children who developed severe illness, infants were the most vulnerable: Researchers found that children under the age of one made up 10.6 per cent of this patient group.
Thirteen of those children were listed in "critical" condition and were on the verge of respiratory or organ failure. The others were classified as "severe" because they had dire respiratory problems.
Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, told CNBC last month that the apparent lack of children among confirmed coronavirus cases could also be because they are getting infected but developing more mild symptoms and aren't being reported to local authorities.
The authors said further investigations into other aspects of potential COVID-19 infection in newborns and children are needed. Most cases have been reported in China, but many countries, particularly in Europe and the US, are reporting exponential increases in cases on a daily basis. For example, the sensitivity of the current diagnostic test for detecting the virus is about 71%, they noted, and its reliability should be evaluated in children.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Health, the risk of severe complications from the virus may be higher for those with a weakened immune system, such as older people or those with chronic diseases. Still, there's another segment of the population that doctors are classifying in that same at-risk category - pregnant women.
The new study, while large and included cases across China, not just where the outbreak originated in Wuhan, leaves many unanswered questions.
There are many myths swirling around on the internet at the moment about Covid-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus. In typical conditions, the low number of reported cases can not be used to draw definite conclusions.
"The age pyramid in China is really different than the USA - they have a lot fewer kids than we do", said Cruz, who believes, as other experts do, that large numbers of people with mild or asymptomatic disease have not been recorded because testing was not done in those cases. "It's likely we've been underestimating the disease burden in kids".