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Data highlight greater impact of COVID-19 vs flu in young childrenA study today in JAMA Network Open comparing COVID-19 versus flu in kids 5 years old and younger finds that the novel coronavirus led to twice the rate of admissions to pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) and rates of intubation one-third higher during the first 15 months of the pandemic.The study included 1,561 US children with influenza from April 2018 to March 2020 and 1,959 children with SARS-CoV-2 infection or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) from April 2020 to June 2021, before the more severe Delta variant became dominant.

Data were from 51 US PICUs, and all patients were under 6 years of age.The pediatric researchers, from institutions across the country, found that COVID-19 admissions per quarter were twice as high as for flu—392 versus 195.

The rate of endotracheal intubation was 33% higher with COVID—a median of 49 versus 36.9 instances per quarter. Mortality rates in the two groups were similar, but hospital and PICU stays were significantly longer for the children with COVID-19The investigators noted that comorbidities did not change clinical outcomes substantially in either group.The authors conclude, "Influenza outcomes were observed during a time with no unusual public health measures in place (2018 to early 2020), while those of SARS-CoV-2 occurred while masking, social distancing, and remote schooling occurred.

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