While the overall death toll from COVID-19 is above 200,000, the number of children and teenagers that have died is around 100. According to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association, 18 states haven’t had a single fatality in people under the age of 20 (as of September 10th). These numbers are noteworthy since, usually, respiratory diseases disproportionately impact the young and old.
However, it’s important to note that young people are still being infected and can very easily spread the disease to others, some of whom might end up with severe cases of the illness. This is why there has been concern with children going back to school. Dr. Sean O’Leary, the vice-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases and a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, commented, “I don’t want people to get the impression that it’s completely benign in children. It’s just that it’s much, much less bad than it is in adults.”
According to the data, as of September 10th, almost 550,000 people under age 20 had been diagnosed with the disease or about 10% of the total cases at that time. Per the American Academy of Pediatrics, there have been 105 children deaths from the beginning of the pandemic through that date.
Researchers are trying to figure out why young people don’t seem to be as severely affected as adults. The hope is that it might offer clues as to treatment options. Several theories are currently proposed. The leading one is that children have fewer ACE2 receptors on their cells than adults. This is where the virus attaches to the cells before invading them. If this is true, scientists can figure out how to block the virus from binding to the receptors.
There’s no question that children seem to fare better than adults. This is why a new study published in The Lancet today is worrisome. The research shows that as of late July, less than 1 in 10 Americans had signs of past infection from the virus. This indicates that most people are still vulnerable to contracting it.
These results are similar to other findings produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, recently said before Congress that 90% of the US population is still vulnerable. This definitely demonstrates that the end is far from over and we need to do more, so the pandemic doesn’t become drastically worse.