A surge in pediatric coronavirus cases over the last several weeks has seen the number of illnesses in kids surpass 2 million, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). More than 1 million of those coronavirus cases in kids have been reported nationwide since Nov. 12, according to the medical group’s data.
“Nearly 179,000 new child COVID-19 cases were reported last week, ending 12-24-20,” the AAP said, in a news release posted Tuesday. “At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”
Children now represent approximately 12.4% of all cases in the U.S., according to the data, and as of Dec. 17, at least 172 children had died due to the illness. About 1.8% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations involve children, but more in-depth data on testing, hospitalizations and morbidity were expected in a forthcoming report.
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“The AAP believes the number of reported COVID-19 cases in children likely is an undercount because children’s symptoms are often mild, and they may not be tested for every illness,” the news release said.
Coronavirus spread among children has been a topic of concern for the country as it grapples with surges in several regions that have not been seen since the onset of the pandemic. Health officials have called for schools to remain open for in-person learning, arguing that the spread is not occurring in the schools, but rather within the communities at small gatherings and by asymptomatic people.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, as well as U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, spent considerable time last month calling for local officials to “close the bars, keep the schools open.”
Many school districts have opted to temporarily switch to remote learning schedules after the holidays amid concerns about potential spikes due to travel and gatherings. And while teachers and school staff are recommended to eventually receive the recently approved coronavirus vaccines, research on whether they are safe and effective in children has just begun.
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Most children who contract coronavirus will have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, as with adults, some can get severely ill and require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe. In rare cases, death may occur.
There have also been instances of a rare, serious medical condition associated with COVID-19 in children identified as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), although the CDC said that it is not yet clear what causes the condition, or who is at an increased risk of developing it.