Clinical Infectious Diseases
Clinical differences between critical illness from influenza infection versus coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have not been well characterized in pediatric patients.
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.
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).
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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