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Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in children at a specialist centre: outcome and implications of underlying high-risk comorbidities in a paediatric population

By Richard Issitt, John Booth, William Bryant, Anastasia Spiridou, Andrew Taylor, Pascale DuPre, Padmanabhan Ramnarayan, John Hartley, Mario Cortino Borja, Karyn Moshal, Helen Dunn, Harry Hemingway, Neil J Sebire

Posted 25 May 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.20.20107904

Background: There is evolving evidence of significant differences in severity and outcomes of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in children compared to adults. Underlying medical conditions associated with increased risk of severe disease are based on adult data, but have been applied across all ages resulting in large numbers of families undertaking social shielding (vulnerable group). We conducted a retrospective analysis of children with suspected COVID-19 at a Specialist Childrens Hospital to determine outcomes based on COVID-19 testing status and underlying health vulnerabilities. Methods: Routine clinical data were extracted retrospectively from the Institutions Electronic Health Record system and Digital Research Environment for patients with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses. Data were compared between Sars-CoV-2 positive and negative patients (CoVPos / CoVNeg respectively), and in relation to presence of underlying health vulnerabilities based on Public Health England guidance. Findings: Between 1st March and 15th May 2020, 166 children (<18 years of age) presented to a specialist childrens hospital with clinical features of possible COVID-19 infection. 65 patients (39.2%) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus. CoVPos patients were older (median 9 [0.9-14] years vs median 1 [0.1-5.7.5] years respectively, p<0.001). There was a significantly reduced proportion of vulnerable cases (47.7% vs 72.3%, p=0.002), but no difference in proportion of vulnerable patients requiring ventilation (61% vs 64.3%, p = 0.84) between CoVPos and CoVNeg groups. However, a significantly lower proportion of CoVPos patients required mechanical ventilation support compared to CoVNeg patients (27.7 vs 57.4%, p<0.001). Mortality was not significantly different between CoVPos and CoVNeg groups (1.5 vs 4% respectively, p=0.67) although there were no direct COVID-19 related deaths in this highly preselected paediatric population. Interpretation: COVID-19 infection may be associated with severe disease in childhood presenting to a specialist hospital, but does not appear significantly different in severity to other causes of similar clinical presentations. In children presenting with pre-existing COVID-19 vulnerable medical conditions at a specialist centre, there does not appear to be significantly increased risk of either contracting COVID-19 or severe complications, apart from those undergoing chemotherapy, who are over-represented.

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