Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Children with COVID-19 are just as likely to be hospitalized, admitted to an intensive care unit and require mechanical ventilation to breathe as those with the seasonal flu, according to a study published Tuesday by JAMA Network Open.
The analysis found that 17% of those with COVID-19 required hospitalization, with 6% being admitted to an ICU, while among children with the flu, 21% were admitted to the hospital and 7% to an ICU.
In addition, 3% of children with COVID-19 needed mechanical ventilation to maintain breathing, compared to 2% of those with the flu.
The findings are based on data from 315 children infected with the new coronavirus between March 25 and May 15 to 743 diagnosed with influenza between Oct. 1, 2019, and June 6.
They highlight the potential for serious complications associated with both viruses, particularly as flu season approaches, researchers from Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., researchers said.
"Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and ventilator use rates are common indicators for disease severity and resource utilization," study co-author Xiaoyan Song told UPI.
"After we observed that children with either COVID-19 or flu experienced very similar outcomes, we are concerned that these two viruses can cause similar harm to children," said Song, director of the office of infection control at Children's National Hospital.
In a typical flu season, as many as 26,000 children nationwide are infected with the virus, and up to 200 die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In comparison, more than 30,000 adults die from the flu annually in the United States, the agency estimates.
Of the more than 6.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States so far in 2020, based on figures from Johns Hopkins University, up to 10% have involved children, the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates.
Just 0.3% of the nearly 190,000 deaths attributed to the virus have involved children, according to the group.
The JAMA Network Open analysis focused on young people admitted to Children's National Hospital with either virus. More than three-fourths of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 reported fever, compared to 55% of those with the flu, the data showed.
In addition, pediatric COVID-19 patients were more likely to report diarrhea or vomiting -- 26% versus 12% -- and body ache -- 22% versus 7%.
Eleven percent of younger COVID-19 patients experienced headache or chest pain, while 3% of those with the flu had these symptoms, the data showed.
"Both COVID-19 and influenza are equally dangerous to children and can cause a serious form of infection," Song said. "[They] have overlapping symptoms that make it difficult to distinguish the two infections by clinical symptom alone."