Jan. 11 (UPI) — The COVID-19 hospitalization rate for children across the United States increased by 800% over the course of six months between mid-May and mid-November of last year, according to a study published Monday by JAMA Pediatrics.
The analysis of data from 22 U.S. states revealed that trends in hospitalization rates for children infected with the new coronavirus nationally typically mirrored those of older adults, the researchers said.
However, while children are far less likely to be hospitalized compared to all adults, the trends are “concerning,” given that much of the focus on the potential for severe illness from COVID-19 has been on the risks for seniors, they said.
“While children are at very low risk for severe illness from COVID-19, there is a misperception that there is no risk,” study co-author Pinar Karaca-Mandic told UPI.
“This study demonstrates that [the virus] has the potential to cause serious illness in children,” said Karaca-Mandic, professor of healthcare risk management at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Although children, teens and young adults have accounted for about one-fifth of the 22.4 million COVID-19 cases nationally, these age groups have made up a fraction of all hospitalizations and deaths, at least so far, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fewer than 1% of all virus-related hospitalizations and deaths across the country involve people 24 years old and younger, the agency estimates.
More than 129,000 people in the United States are hospitalized with the virus and more than 374,000 have died since the start of the pandemic, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
For this study, Karaca-Mandic and her colleagues analyzed data on more than 300,000 COVID-19-related hospitalizations in 22 states between May 15 and Nov. 15.
Just over 5,300 of these hospitalizations involved children, the researchers said.
However, although children continue to account for relatively few of those with severe illness from the virus, they were hospitalized at a rate of 17.2 per 100,000 children in the general population by Nov. 15, up from two per 100,000 six months earlier, according to the researchers.
In mid-November, South Dakota and Arizona had the highest rates of pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19 at 33.7 per 100,000 children in the general population and 32.8 per 100,000, the researchers said.
“Our study was not designed to analyze whether children fueled the spread of COVID-19,” Karaca-Mandic said.
“However, in 19 of 21 states where we could make a comparison, the rate of growth in cumulative pediatric hospitalization rates was higher than the corresponding rate of growth in adult hospitalization,” she said.