Long symptoms of COVID in children rarely persist beyond 12 weeks

Newswise – Long symptoms of COVID have rarely persisted beyond 12 weeks in children and adolescents, unlike adults. But more studies were needed to investigate the risk and impact of long-term COVID among young people to help guide vaccine policy decisions in Australia, according to a study by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI).

The review, published in the Journal of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, found that existing studies on long COVID in children and adolescents have major limitations and some do not show a difference in symptoms between those who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 and those who have not summer.

It comes as a new MCRI COVID-19 research brief also states that after 10 months of circulation, the Delta strain did not cause more severe illness in children than previous variants and most cases remained. asymptomatic or mild.

However, it found that children and adolescents with pre-existing health conditions, including obesity, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and immune disorders, have a 25 times higher risk of severe COVID-19. A recent systematic review reported that severe COVID-19 occurred in 5.1% of children and adolescents with pre-existing conditions and in 0.2% without.

MCRI professor Nigel Curtis said that while children infected with SARS-CoV-2 were generally asymptomatic or had mild illness with low hospitalization rates, the risk and characteristics of a long COVID were poorly understood.

“Current studies lack a clear case definition and age-related data, have variable follow-up times, and are based on symptoms that are self-reported or reported by parents without laboratory confirmation,” he said. he declares. “Another important issue is that many studies have low response rates, which means they might overestimate the risk of COVID for a long time. “

The MCRI and the University of Friborg, Dr Petra Zimmermann, said it was difficult to distinguish the long symptoms of COVID-19 from those attributable to the indirect effects of the pandemic, such as school closures, the fact not seeing friends or the inability to play sports and hobbies.

“This highlights why it is essential that future studies involve more rigorous control groups, including children with other infections and those admitted to hospital or intensive care for other reasons,” a- she declared.

The MCRI-led review analyzed 14 international studies involving 19,426 children and adolescents who reported persistent symptoms after COVID-19. The most common symptoms reported four to 12 weeks after acute infection were headache, fatigue, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and abdominal pain.

Professor Curtis, who is also professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Melbourne and chief of infectious diseases at the Royal Children’s Hospital, said it was reassuring that there was little evidence that symptoms would persist for more than 12 years. weeks, suggesting that the long COVID could be of less concern in children and adolescents than in adults.

But he said more studies were urgently needed to inform policy decisions on COVID vaccines for children and adolescents.

“The low risk posed by the acute illness means that one of the main benefits of COVID vaccination of children and adolescents could be to protect them from a lengthy COVID,” he said. “A precise determination of the risk of COVID long in this age group is therefore crucial in the debate on the risks and benefits of vaccination. “

The MCRI COVID-19 brief also confirmed research gaps on the role of the Delta variant in COVID-19 disease in children and adolescents.

MCRI COVID-19 governance group co-chair Professor Andrew Steer said that because the Delta variant is more transmissible, it makes it difficult to control community outbreaks without risk mitigation strategies in place.

“More data is needed to describe the burden of COVID-19 in children and adolescents following the emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant and because adults have been prioritized for vaccines,” he said .

“As restrictions relax and the circulation of other respiratory viruses increases, we also need to understand whether co-infection with other respiratory viruses, such as RSV or influenza, increases the severity of illness in patients. youth. “

But Professor Steer said parents should be reassured that the disease caused by the Delta variant remains asymptomatic or mild in the vast majority of children and adolescents and that hospitalizations are still rare.

To date in Australia, there have been no deaths from COVID-19 in children under the age of 10, and one death in an adolescent. As of September 5, 22% of all COVID-19 cases were in people under the age of 19.

The COVID-19 brief said that although multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) has caused child deaths abroad, these were mainly at the onset of the pandemic and earlier diagnosis, more appropriate treatments had improved results. By 2021, almost all children with MIS-C have made a full recovery. In Australia, there have been four confirmed cases and no deaths from MIS-C.

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