How coronavirus differently impacts kids and seniors

Mar 24, 2020, 7:05 AM | Updated: 10:15 am

The coronavirus can absolutely impact kids, but so far we’ve not seen data suggesting they’re at risk of mortality in the way that we’re seeing with senior citizens. To discuss the impact coronavirus has on children, Eastside pediatrician Dr. Don Shifrin joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

“Well, the kids are at risk to get coronavirus just like adults. The specifics of how they get it is that they become very less symptomatic than most adults. They have a sniffle, maybe a little cough, sometimes a little fever. But for some reason, and we have yet to define what that reason is, their immune system seems to be a little more optimized to fight this particular virus than adults,” he said.

“One of the postulations or theories about this is perhaps they’ve been exposed to some form of coronavirus over the years as mild colds, and there may be some cross-reaction with this novel or new coronavirus that’s been coming into the country.”

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So if that theory is true, why then would it not be the same for someone who’s older?

“Well, the interesting thing is that as we get older our immune systems get, shall we say, a little less efficient. So this is why the theory about why the elderly or the immunocompromised are having much more difficulties with coronavirus than other young people, for instance, youngsters from let’s say 15 to 30 are very much less affected, as are children.”

Dr. Shifrin noted that when the information came out of Wuhan about the first 171 children that were patients in the Wuhan hospital, only one of those patients died. It was a 10 month old with surgical problems.

“But there’s no question that if we’re looking at children that are more at risk because of their immune systems, it would be kids that are younger babies under the age of a year, and anyone who is immunocompromised under cancer therapy or has cardiovascular or pulmonary, shall we say, compromises, things like severe asthma, or a lung injury from being a premature baby.”

“Those are youngsters we need to take extra precautions with for sure.”

When we’re talking about the reason why we close down schools and other spots that kids might visit, it’s not simply for their health, though that is a concern, but it’s also to prevent them from becoming a vector of disease for the demographic that is more at risk of mortality.

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“Well, that’s so very important for us to emphasize, that children are social creatures — we’re all hardwired to be social — it’s very difficult to keep them apart from family members, especially elderly family members,” he said.

“We’re urging people to use all of the wonderful internet connections to maintain social contacts with their family and friends, especially grandparents … because right now physical contact would be ill advised because children can be asymptomatic and still pass infection. And that is because they’re constantly using their hands around their face and the virus can be transmitted person to person.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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How coronavirus differently impacts kids and seniors