Los Angeles County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer.
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images
Los Angeles County health officials announced Tuesday that a child under 18 has died from the coronavirus in California.
“Tragically, one of the people who died was a person under the age of 18, a devastating reminder that COVID-19 infects people of all ages,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the County of Los Angeles Public Health Department, said at a news briefing.
The patient was from Lancaster, California, the county’s health department said in a press release. Ferrer did not provide more details such as the precise age of the patient or whether they had underlying health conditions. Representatives from the health department weren’t immediately available for further comment.
However, LA County health officials later said in an update Tuesday evening that the death will require “further evaluation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
While some children have died from the coronavirus, scientists say fatalities among kids have been rare.
“The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms.”
Ferrer announced three new deaths in the county, which brings the total COVID-19 death toll in Los Angeles County to 11. She also confirmed 128 new cases over the past 24 hours, which brings the total in the county to 662.
“One unfortunate fact about this virus is there’s a lot of variability in sort of how the illness presents itself. Some people are getting very sick very quickly,” she said.
She said 42% of the county’s coronavirus patients are between 18 and 40 years old and 39% are between 41 and 65 years old. Of the 662 confirmed cases in the county, Ferrer said 119 have been hospitalized at some point. That’s a roughly 18% hospitalization rate.
The World Health Organization has warned that the virus can infect young people and, while it may be less common, can also develop into a severe and life-threatening illness.
A recent study in China showed a number of children there developed severe or critical symptoms with one child dying, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said at a news conference last week. “What we need to prepare for is the possibility that children can also experience severe disease.”
The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at 2,143 cases of children with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 that were reported to the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between Jan. 16 and Feb. 8. More than 90% of the cases were asymptomatic, mild or moderate cases. However, nearly 6% of the children’s cases were severe or critical, compared with 18.5% for adults.
“The evidence we have suggests that those over 60 are at highest risk,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Young people, including children, have died.”