Coronavirus: More positive COVID-19 news for kids, bad news for adults

Children are just as likely to end up in hospital if they catch COVID-19 as they are with the flu, a new study has found.

While that's further evidence children aren't as badly affected by the new coronavirus as adults, there's more bad news for the latter, with separate research suggesting it causes long-term lung and heart damage in most patients who require hospital-level care.

While most respiratory diseases hit the very young and very old hardest, COVID-19 - caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus - is unusual, in that its lethality directly correlates with age - the younger you are, the more likely you are generally to survive. 

Scientists in the US looked at hundreds of child cases of COVID-19 and influenza, and found "no difference in hospitalisation rates, intensive care unit admission rates and mechanical ventilator use". 

Children with COVID-19 were more likely to have a fever, diarrhea, headache, body aches and chest pains or vomiting, but their survival and hospitalisation rates were the same. 

The researchers also found that children hospitalised with COVID-19 were 54 percent more likely to have underlying conditions contributing to the severity of the disease - also a common feature in adult cases. 

The findings were published in journal JAMA Network Open.

The study didn't look into MIS-C, the mysterious inflammation syndrome in children beleived linked to the same virus which causes COVID-19, which has proven to be fatal in some cases.

Also, early results from ongoing research into COVID-19's long-term effects this week was presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in Vienna.

Researchers looking at cases in Austria found in about 88 percent of people who require hospital treatment for the disease, lung damage caused by inflammation and fluid is still visible in scans six weeks after being discharged. 

At the 12-week stage, 56 percent of patients still had signs of lung damage. 

"The bad news is that people show lung impairment from COVID-19 weeks after discharge; the good news is that the impairment tends to ameliorate over time, which suggests the lungs have a mechanism for repairing themselves," said Sabina Sahanic of the University Clinic in Innsbruck, who contributed to the research.

Six weeks after discharge, 47 percent of patients still had problems with breathlessness, reducing only slightly to 39 percent by week 12. Fifteen percent of patients still had a persistent cough 12 weeks afterwards.

Around 60 percent were still having heart and circulation problems six weeks after discharge. 

"Biological indicators of heart damage, blood clots and inflammation were all significantly elevated," the European Respiratory Society said in a statement. 

Dr Sahanic said COVID-19 didn't appear to be attacking the heart specifically - the problems just a consequence of how severe the disease can be.

"It is sobering to hear that more than half of the patients in this study showed damage to their lungs and hearts 12 weeks after hospital discharge, and that nearly 40 percent were still suffering from symptoms such as breathlessness," said Theirry Troosters, president of the European Respiratory Society.