Joanna M. Storey, MD
Children’s Medical Group
Since we first started hearing about the novel coronavirus strain infecting residents of Wuhan, China, pediatricians have been particularly anxious about what a world pandemic would mean for our young patients. As a group, infants and children are typically among the most vulnerable when it comes to infection in the community. Their relatively immature immune systems sometimes do not respond vigorously enough to protect them from the worst of infections. And typically, the younger a child is, the more dangerous an infectious illness can be.
In addition, it’s not possible for babies and children to practice social distancing. Being touched and held for feeding, bathing, and play by caregivers is a requirement for their physical and emotional health. Nor can they avoid touching their faces. Sucking on fingers and exploring their world with their mouths is just what babies and toddlers do. Older kids and teens may be at greater risk as well—as a group they are less likely to understand and comply with social distancing guidelines.
Given these concerns, we are pleasantly surprised to see that novel coronavirus infection rates are relatively low in babies and children. As of today, we’ve had no patients who have tested positive in our practice. Children under 18 represent only 2.5% of total infections in Mississippi and no infant under a year of age in the state has had a positive test. Additionally, national and international data have shown us that deaths in children due to coronavirus are exceedingly rare.
Infectious disease specialists are hard at work figuring out why children are so much less susceptible. One theory is that previous exposure to other common coronavirus strains known to cause mild colds in kids may confer some immunity to the new strain. For now, our practice remains vigilant for cases of coronavirus infection among our patients. We are available both in person and by telehealth for our patients’ other health needs. Please call us with any concerns about your child.