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Study: Infant risk for COVID-19 directly related to spread in community

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Infants' risk for COVID-19 increases when spread is high in their local community, a new study finds. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/3de2aadb4cd614145083d233757e67be/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Infants' risk for COVID-19 increases when spread is high in their local community, a new study finds. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

June 30 (UPI) -- The risk for COVID-19 among infants and young children depends on the level of virus spread in the local community, a study published Wednesday by the journal Pediatrics found.

Infection rates were higher among infants hospitalized with possible bacterial infections -- not necessarily linked to the coronavirus -- during periods of high COVID-19 circulation in New York City, the data showed.

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Conversely, coronavirus infection rates in this age group were lower when infection rates in the city were low, as well.

"It may be intuitive that what is happening in children reflects conditions in the surrounding community," study co-author Dr. Michal Paret said in a press release.

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However, "we find it reassuring that the evidence confirms this relationship," said Paret, a fellow in pediatric infectious diseases at NYU Langone Health in New York City.

New York City was the first epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, with more than 190,000 confirmed cases between March and May 2020, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Three percent of the reported cases were in children age 18 and younger, although these numbers may be underestimated given the lack of adequate testing, Paret and his colleagues said.

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Most of the children infected had mild or no symptoms, though some cases of severe illness, including Kawasaki-like disease, have been reported.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data from infants fewer than 90 days old hospitalized for possible serious bacterial infections at NYU Langone Health hospitals and Bellevue Hospital between March and December of last year.

Among 148 infants, 15% tested positive for COVID-19, and two of the 22 infants with the disease required intensive care unit treatment, but recovered, the data showed.

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However, 3% of the infected infants tested positive during periods of low community transmission, while 31% did so in times with high infection rates, the researchers said.

About 6% of the infants in the study tested positive for other commonly occurring viruses, whether or not they had COVID-19.

This, researchers said, likely reflects community-wide decreases in other respiratory viruses due to enhanced infection control practices such as social distancing and mask wearing.

The most common presentation of COVID-19 in infants was a fever without other symptoms, according to the researchers.

"Because fever is a common symptom of COVID-19 in children, clinicians must consider COVID-19 as a potential cause of fever and not solely rely on laboratory or imaging results," study co-author Dr. Vanessa N. Raabe said in a press release.

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"Enhancing our knowledge of how COVID-19 infection affects young infants is important ... for planning public health measures such as vaccination distribution," said Raabe, an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at NYU Langone Health.

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