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Pediatric study looks to discover who is at risk of long-COVID

Children's National Hospital (7News)
Children's National Hospital (7News)
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Who is most likely to get long-COVID? Children’s National Hospital is enrolling pediatric participants in a new study to look for an answer.

Lingering symptoms after COVID-19 recovery is not fully understood and can be called many different names like post-COVID syndrome, post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2, long-COVID and long haulers. Symptoms vary and Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Roberta DeBiasi listed frequent complaints from young patients.

“It could be cognitive issues where they feel that they’re not thinking clearly or they’re having difficulty performing in their academic work, headaches, it can be fatigue. Some kids have unusual pain syndrome, so they just get pain in different parts of their body. Abdominal pain is something we’re seeing in kids,” Dr. DeBiasi told 7NEWS Health Reporter Victoria Sanchez.

For the most part, when children get COVID-19, they have mild disease. However, the virus can result in hospitalization or death.

“You really can’t predict who’s going to have long-COVID based on, ‘Oh, that kid was really sick. They’re more likely to get long-COVID.’ Versus the other kid who had almost no symptoms. We have the whole spectrum,” said Dr. DeBiasi.

She said Children’s National Hospital has treated more than 8,000 pediatric COVID cases and “about 50 or 60” of those kids were treated in the specialty clinic for the post-COVID syndrome. More are expected in the coming months.

“We are booked out until March in our clinics,” she said.

Beyond numbers, there’s a bigger question health officials want to answer.

“’How likely is it or not that I will have some effect on my heart, my lungs, my mental health or my neurodevelopment of my child or myself if I’m older because of the infection that I had?’” said Dr. DeBiasi. “That’s a complete unknown right now.”
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The hospital is enrolling 1,000 participants up to age 21 in its Long-Term Effects of COVID and MIS-C Study. Potential answers will take time. The study will test participants every six months for three years.

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