Group sees 14% increase in child Covid-19 cases with close to 800,000 US kids infected

Children account for 11% of all Covid-19 cases in the US, a 14% increase over the past two weeks, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Monday.

The group, which represents pediatricians, says about 792,188 children have been infected in the US as of October 22. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 8.6 million Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

The AAP said 94,555 new child cases were reported from October 8 to October 22.

Severe illness and deaths from Covid-19 are still rare among children. As of October 22, children represented between 1% and 3.6% of total hospitalizations, depending on the state. Between 0.6% and 6.9% of all child Covid-19 cases resulted in hospitalization and in states that reported the information, up to 0.15% of all children with Covid-19 died. Sixteen states reported no child deaths.

The AAP said it started collecting this data in the absence of regular releases of information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC provides a national number of cases by age in its data tracker, but the age data isn’t released on a regular schedule. The AAP reports on numbers of cases among children weekly.

With the CDC numbers it is also hard to know where the cases are coming from, as there are no geographic indicators provided with the CDC’s age data.

The AAP’s count is not totally complete, because not all states report data in the same way. The cases are likely undercounted, according to the organization. These numbers come from 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. A smaller subset of states report information about hospitalizations and deaths by age.

The AAP recommends that children wear masks, avoid large crowds and keep a healthy distance from others. It also suggests all children 6 months or older get a flu shot. Pediatricians say it’s even more important than ever to get a flu shot before the end of October.

With two respiratory diseases circulating at the same time –flu and coronavirus — will be confusing to doctors, parents and caregivers. Plus, hospitals and clinics could be overwhelmed with the double burden.

The two viruses cause similar symptoms but a study published September in JAMA Network Open found that children hospitalized with Covid-19 were more likely to have fever, aches, diarrhea and vomiting than were children with the flu.

Children with Covid-19 also tended to be older and have at least one underlying health condition. Babies under a year old with certain underlying conditions such as asthma or diabetes may also be more likely to have severe illness from Covid-19.

Covid-19 and seasonal flu in children led to similar rates of hospitalization, intensive care admission, and need for a ventilator to help breathing, the study found. The CDC says 189 children died from flu over the 2019-2020 season.