Child COVID-19 victim was 9 months old, had no underlying conditions

The child was not hospitalized, health officials said.

The first confirmed death of a child from COVID-19 in Minnesota is among the youngest to die from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to officials with the Minnesota Department of Health. 

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm announced the Clay County 9-month-old's death during a Monday media briefing: "We're very sad to report the death today of a 9-month-old who tested positive for COVID-19."

Malcolm said it was an "isolated incident" related to the infant's "very specific situation," though due to data privacy she didn't speak further about the baby. MDH epidemiologist Kris Ehresmann, however, said "the child did not have an underlying health condition." 

Ehresmann said the 9-month-old had "some of the expected respiratory symptoms" associated with COVID-19, "and did show some evidence of some inflammation in the upper airways. Officially, doctors identified two causes of death: 

  1. Upper/lower respiratory tract infection
  2. Nasal culture positive for COVID-19 

"Clearly had evidence of a respiratory infection and did test positive for COVID-19. How significant the COVID infection was, that is for the medical examiner to comment on.," said Ehresmann. 

The child was not hospitalized. 

Malcolm noted that the case represents "one of the youngest deaths in the country reported to date." Because of the rarity of children dying from the disease, state health officials are sending specimens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further analysis. 

"We may learn more from CDC, but at this point we know that the child did have COVID and we are including it, unfortunately, in our death total," Ehresmann said, noting that MDH hopes the CDC analysis will help them better understand the physiological changes that occurred with the child.  

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COVID-19 and children

The latest data reported by the MDH reveals that there have been 986 confirmed COVID-19 cases involving children ages 0-5 in Minnesota. This is the first death of anyone younger than 20 in Minnesota. 

Ehresmann explained that most young children contract the virus from adults. It is less likely for children to drive transmission. 

"Kids tend to have a milder illness, fewer hospitalizations," Ehresmann said. "We want to acknowledge that we're continuing to learn about this illness." 

"What we don't know – and think this is true for all ages – we don't really know the underlying, long-term impact of a COVID infection on an individual," she added.

ABC News recently reported a study published to Lancet that suggests that many children are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. The study said children "were more likely to become severely sick and be admitted to the ICU if they were boys, newborns or if they had underlying health conditions or lung infections.

Underlying health conditions and COVID-19

On July 17, the CDC adjusted its list of underlying health conditions into three tiers: 

Strongest and most consistent evidence: Severe heart conditions, cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, obesity, sickle cell disease, solid organ transplantation, Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Mixed evidence: Asthma, cerebrovascular disease, hypertension, pregnancy, smoking, use of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive medications

Limited evidence: Bone marrow transplantation, HIV, immune deficiencies, inherited metabolic disorders, neurological conditions, other chronic lung diseases, pediatrics, liver disease, Type 1 diabetes mellitus, thalassemia

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