Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the children: Why are they dying?

Filed Under: Costs, Patients, Providers

child wearing mask

“Fretting over a fever in her toddler that wouldn’t break, the mother took the young girl, Letícia, to a hospital. Doctors had worrisome news: It was Covid-19,” Anna Ionova writes for The New York Times. “But they were reassuring, noting that children almost never develop serious symptoms, said the mother, Ariani Roque Marinheiro. Less than two weeks later, on Feb. 27, Letícia died in the critical care unit of the hospital in Maringá, in southern Brazil, after days of labored breathing. ‘It happened so quickly, and she was gone,’ said Ms. Marinheiro, 33. ‘She was everything to me.’ Covid-19 is ravaging Brazil, and, in a disturbing new wrinkle that experts are working to understand, it appears to be killing babies and small children at an unusually high rate. Since the start of the pandemic, 832 children 5 and under have died of the virus, according to Brazil’s health ministry. Comparable data is scarce because countries track the impact of the virus differently, but in the United States, which has a far larger population than Brazil, and a higher death toll from Covid-19, 139 children 4 and under have died. And Brazil’s official number of child deaths is probably a substantial undercount, as a lack of widespread testing means many cases go undiagnosed, said Dr. Fátima Marinho, an epidemiologist at the University of São Paulo. Dr. Marinho, who is leading a study tallying the death toll among children based on both suspected and confirmed cases, estimates that more than 2,200 children under 5 have died since the start of the pandemic, including more than 1,600 babies less than a year old. ‘We are seeing a huge impact on children,’ said Dr. Marinho. ‘It’s a number that’s absurdly high. We haven’t seen this anywhere else in the world.’ Experts in Brazil, Europe and the United States agree that the number of children’s deaths from Covid-19 in Brazil appeared to be particularly high.” Anna Ionova, “Why Is Covid Killing So Many Young Children in Brazil? Doctors Are Baffled,” The New York Times.