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SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19): What do we know about children? A systematic review

Nisha S Mehta, Oliver T Mytton, Edward W S Mullins, Tom A Fowler, Catherine L Falconer, Orla B Murphy, Claudia Langenberg, Wikum J P Jayatunga, Danielle H Eddy, Jonathan S Nguyen-Van-Tam
Clinical Infectious Diseases: An Official Publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America 2020 May 11
32392337

BACKGROUND: Few paediatric cases of COVID-19 have been reported and we know little about the epidemiology in children, though more is known about other coronaviruses. We aimed to understand the infection rate, clinical presentation, clinical outcomes and transmission dynamics for SARS-CoV-2, in order to inform clinical and public health measures.

METHODS: We undertook a rapid systematic review and narrative synthesis of all literature relating to SARS-CoV-2 in paediatric populations. The search terms also included SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. We searched three databases and the COVID-19 resource centres of eleven major journals and publishers. English abstracts of Chinese language papers were included. Data were extracted and narrative syntheses conducted.

RESULTS: 24 studies relating to COVID-19 were included in the review. Children appear to be less affected by COVID-19 than adults by observed rate of cases in large epidemiological studies. Limited data on attack rate indicate that children are just as susceptible to infection. Data on clinical outcomes are scarce but include several reports of asymptomatic infection and a milder course of disease in young children, though radiological abnormalities are noted. Severe cases are not reported in detail and there are little data relating to transmission.

CONCLUSIONS: Children appear to have a low observed case rate of COVID-19 but may have similar rates to adults of infection with SARS-CoV-2. This discrepancy may be because children are asymptomatic or too mildly infected to draw medical attention, be tested and counted in observed cases of COVID-19.

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