Boston children’s doctor calls for more research into long COVID in children


“All of these constellations of symptoms really need to be investigated.”

Boston Children’s Hospital infectious disease epidemiologist calls for more funding to support long COVID research, especially in children, as the pandemic continues.

Dr. John Brownstein, director of innovation at the hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School, was asked Monday during an appearance on ABC News Live about recent reports highlighting the disease’s impact on children and how parents can monitor symptoms.

“It’s really concerning and it’s something that’s just understudied,” Brownstein said. “We just don’t have enough research to understand the long COVID. There have been 13 million children, at least, who have had COVID throughout this pandemic, and there are estimates [of] about 2-10% who have experienced some form of long COVID.

The epidemiologist said there are up to 200 different symptoms described for long COVID in children, ranging from fatigue and brain fog to heart palpitations, stomach problems and loss of taste or taste. ‘smell.

“All of these constellations of symptoms really need to be investigated,” Brownstein said. “It is difficult, of course, for parents to identify these things. Sometimes it goes unnoticed. I therefore strongly recommend that if any parents have any concerns about their children, please see their primary care physician or pediatrician immediately to understand what is going on.

At this point, with some children appearing to have recovered from COVID and developing symptoms again, Brownstein said it’s just not clear how to differentiate whether the re-emerging symptoms are long COVID or potentially another illness.

“That’s why more research needs to take place,” he said. “It is possible that this child will be asymptomatic for several weeks and then present these symptoms. It is very difficult to test. And so science hasn’t caught up with the impact that happens to children. And that’s another reason why we need real funding in COVID, to kind of mitigate those impacts on our children in the future.

Boston’s children’s doctor said he expects to see a new wave of coronavirus cases in the fall, likely due to another variant that will need to be treated.

And to prepare, more funding, as requested by the White House, is needed, he said.

“There are a wide variety of areas where we know we can fight this virus, even things as basic as making masks available to the American people,” he said. “All of these mitigation strategies combined put us in a place where we can live with the virus, but if we don’t invest in that capacity, we’re going to have a very difficult fall and winter this coming year.”

Brownstein said he’s also concerned about another surge that could happen sooner in parts of the country where fewer people have received their booster shots and testing isn’t as robust.

He noted that in the North East, which has seen an increase in cases, there has been a “decoupling” between case rates and deaths, meaning that even though the number of people contracting the virus is in rising, the number of deaths is falling.

“It’s really good news,” he said. “And we see this split happening in the North East because we have a lot of boost and we have a lot of testing. My concern is in the South where there is less vaccination, less recall, less testing, it will be a problem as we see this BA.2 variant arrive. So I’m somewhat worried about a surge this summer in other parts of the country.

Even with this pattern that other experts have called encouraging, Brownstein said there are still concerns about the rise in cases and its impact on serious illness. The increase in the number of cases seen now, he said, is the “convergence” of easing restrictions, masking and the most contagious subvariant of BA.2, which he says, is 30-80% more transmissible than omicron.

Brownstein said in particular he was concerned about unvaccinated, unboosted people, and those who are immunocompromised and cannot mount a significant immune response to the vaccine.

“I think overall we’re a bit lax now because we’re doing these home tests; we don’t see the full spectrum of what’s really going on in the community,” he said. “And that’s a potential problem for our health systems, because once you have a lot of transmission in the community, it can lead to surges that impact our capacity. So we’re still not in a position where we can reliably predict what’s going to happen with this virus so that we can adequately prepare for what’s to come. »

Watch his full appearance below:


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