CORONAVIRUS

Iowa just reported first coronavirus death of a child. How common is that?

While uncommon, children with underlying health conditions experience greater risk

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the 2019 novel coronavirus. (CDC via
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the 2019 novel coronavirus. (CDC via Associated Press)

Though the death from COVID-19 of the first child in Iowa is tragic, data shows this case is a very rare instance throughout the pandemic.

State public health officials reported the death this past weekend.

The State Medical Examiner confirmed the death was caused by COVID-19, according to a news release from the Iowa Department of Public Health on Sunday. Case investigations occur whenever someone under the age of 17 dies due to disease or other unnatural circumstances.

The death occurred sometime in June. The child, who was under the age of five, had “significant underlying health conditions,” according to the department.

“In this case, the medical examiner performed a full range of testing, given the complicating factor of the child’s health history,” the Department of Public Health statement said. “Ultimately, COVID-19 was deemed the cause of death.”

No other details were released on the case after public health officials cited the child’s and his or her family’s privacy. Officials with the state health department did not respond to a request for comment from The Gazette.

Though the young Iowan’s death occurred in June, the case investigation was not completed until Aug. 6 and wasn’t publicly announced until Aug. 23. As a result, the case wasn’t included in some national death counts.

National data shows those below the age of 18 make up a small percentage of total COVID-19 deaths. In fact, almost 20 states have reported no child deaths as a result of the virus, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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As of Monday, 80 COVID-19 deaths have been reported among those aged 17 and younger, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes 32 among children aged four and younger, and 48 among those between the ages of 5 and 17.

That’s 0.06 percent of the total 131,692 deaths counted by the CDC so far this year.

The state with the most pediatric deaths is Texas, where 16 of the state’s more than 9,000 deaths are among those aged 19 and younger, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Of the nearly 19,000 total COVID-19 deaths in New York City alone — one of the hardest hit areas back in the spring — 13 were among those aged 17 and younger.

What is the risk for complications or hospitalizations?

Research does indicate those with underlying medical conditions, including heart disease and asthma, are at higher risk for complications. According to a CDC report released in June, those with underlying medical conditions infected by COVID-19 died 12 times as often and were hospitalized six times as often as otherwise healthy individuals.

CDC researchers note severe outcomes related to the virus were seen more often among older age groups, particularly those aged 70 and older.

Those aged 19 and older saw the lowest prevalence of severe outcomes, including hospitalizations and deaths, between Jan. 22 and May 30.

Of the more than 600 children younger than 10 years old with underlying health conditions who were diagnosed with COVID-19 in that time period, 138 were hospitalized, 31 were admitted to an intensive care unit and four died, the CDC reported.

“Luckily, the vast majority of children who are infected with the virus appear to have mild disease or asymptomatic infection, and that’s good news,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical chief, said on Monday.

She still cautioned that some children can develop severe cases of coronavirus and even die.

Are children immune?

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump was cited for violating misinformation policies on social media platforms for stating children are “almost immune” from the novel coronavirus.

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While research shows children are less likely to experience severe or long-term impacts of the novel coronavirus, they are not immune, experts say.

CDC data shows 325,557 children below the age of 18 have been infected with COVID-19 as of Monday.

The American Academy of Pediatrics — which uses individual states’ definition of children — counts 406,000 pediatric COVID-19 cases as of mid-August.

Research still is limited, and data from other countries shows elementary school-aged children may present a lower risk of spread. A study conducted in South Korea, and published on the CDC’s website, indicates the rate of infection was three times higher for children aged 10 to 19 than for children under the age of 10.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.