In the interest of disseminating credible and useful information about COVID-19, The Beacon reports the following recent news:
Researchers at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center have determined in a retrospective study of 2,143 pediatric patients with either confirmed or suspected COVID-19 that coronavirus infections in children are generally less severe than in adults.
They also raise concern about the vulnerability of very young children, especially infants, and U.S. physicians commenting on their study data suggest that children may play a “major role” in spreading the pandemic virus.
The researchers’ peer-reviewed study and analysis, titled “Epidemiological Characteristics of 2143 Pediatric Patients With 2019 Coronavirus Disease in China,” will be published in “Pediatrics,” a journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It has been pre-published, unedited, at https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2020/03/16/peds.2020-0702.full.pdf
Today’s Washington Post features a synopsis of the study at
The researchers list a number of limitations in their study, the most critical one, we believe, being that 1,412 patients–or 65.9 percent of the total patients studied–were only suspected of having COVID-19. The infections of the other 731 patients were confirmed by laboratory testing.
The majority of the children with severe or critical illness were in the suspected group, not the confirmed group, raising the possibility that they may have had other respiratory infections than COVID-19.
The 2,143 children that the researchers studied ranged in age from newborn to 18, with a median age of 7. They report that more than 90 percent of the children had “mild” or “moderate” suspected or confirmed COVID-19 disease or were even asymptomatic.
The majority of the cases considered “mild” had typical cold-like symptoms, including “fever, fatigue, myalgia, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and sneezing.” But some of these patients, the researchers report, had no fever and only digestive symptoms, such as “nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.”
Children with “moderate” infection had pneumonia with “frequent fever and cough,” usually a dry cough, followed by a productive (wetter) cough. Some had wheezing, but no obvious shortness of breath.
Only 5 percent of the children had severe infections, which began with respiratory symptoms such as fever and cough, sometimes accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea. After one week, the children had more difficulty breathing. Those who became “critical” quickly progressed to acute respiratory distress or respiratory failure and “may also have shock, encephalopathy, . . . heart failure, . . . and acute kidney injury,” the researchers report. One 14-year-old boy died.
A group of seven infants—11 percent of the total number of infants—and two children ages 1 to 5—15 percent of the total—progressed to critical condition, which suggested to the researchers that very young children and infants are more vulnerable than older children.
According to a commentary by physician-editors of Pediatrics, which The Washington Post reported, the study suggests that “children may play a major role in community-based viral transmission.” Their runny noses and gastrointestinal symptoms may make them more contagious.
“Prolonged shedding in nasal secretions and stool has substantial implications for community spread in day-care centers, schools, and in the home,” write Dr. Andrea Cruz, a pediatrician at the Baylor College of Medicine, and Dr. Steve Zeichner, a University of Virginia immunologist.
The one clear takeaway from the study—remember, it is only ONE study, and it has its limitations—is that the new coronavirus causes severe disease across the age spectrum. Children are not immune, as some earlier reports seemed to suggest.
IRS OFFERS TAX RELIEF
The Internal Revenue Service is offering taxpayers an extension of the tax payment deadline from April 15 to July 15. The IRS has not changed the income tax filing deadline. You must still file your return by April 15, but you may defer payment of your tax until July 15.
The IRS has established a special section for “Coronavirus Tax Relief,” which you may access here:
Details about the tax payment deadline are provided here:
The N.C. Dept. of Revenue has given notice that it will provide penalty relief to taxpayers affected by COVID-19 who cannot meet their filing or payment deadlines. To obtain this relief, you must fill out a “Request to Waive Penalties” form (NC-5500). For more details, see: https://files.nc.gov/ncdor/documents/files/2020-3-17-Important-Notice-COVID.pdf
For information about COVID-19, especially its symptoms, you may call:
Dare County COVID-19 Hotline: (252) 475-5008
N.C. Coronavirus Hotline: (866) 462-3821
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Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/19/20