Life-Threatening Complications of Influenza versus COVID-19 in U.S. Children.

Academic Article


  • BACKGROUND: Clinical differences between critical illness from influenza infection versus coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have not been well characterized in pediatric patients. METHODS: We compared U.S. children (8 months to 17 years) admitted to the intensive care or high acuity unit with influenza (17 hospitals, 12/19/2019-3/9/2020) or COVID-19 (52 hospitals, 3/15/2020-12/31/2020). We compared demographics, underlying conditions, clinical presentation, severity, and outcomes. Using mixed-effects models, we assessed the odds of death or requiring life-support for influenza versus COVID-19 after adjustment for age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, and underlying conditions including obesity. RESULTS: Children with influenza (n = 179) were younger than those with COVID-19 (n = 381; median 5.2 vs. 13.8 years), less likely to be non-Hispanic black (14.5% vs. 27.6%) or Hispanic (24.0% vs. 36.2%), and less likely to have ≥1 underlying condition (66.4% vs. 78.5%) or be obese (21.4% vs. 42.2%). They were similarly likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation (both 30.2%), vasopressor support (19.6% and 19.9%), or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (2.2% and 2.9%). Four children with influenza (2.2%) and 11 children with COVID-19 (2.9%) died. The odds of death or requiring life-support in children with influenza vs. COVID-19 were similar (adjusted odds ratio, 1.30 [95% CI: 0.78-2.15; P = 0.32]). Median duration of hospital stay was shorter for influenza than COVID-19 (5 versus 7 days). CONCLUSIONS: Despite differences in demographics and clinical characteristics of children with influenza or COVID-19, the frequency of life-threatening complications was similar. Our findings highlight the importance of implementing prevention measures to reduce transmission and disease severity of influenza and COVID-19.
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  • Halasa NB; Spieker AJ; Young CC; Olson SM; Newhams MM; Amarin JZ; Moffitt KL; Nakamura MM; Levy ER; Soma VL