Unheralded RIDOH Website Clarifies Relative Impact of Pediatric Influenza and Covid-19 in Rhode Island

Almost completely hidden from public view, I just recently discovered a new source of data available from the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) website. One of the inescapable findings based on our state’s own data … is that serious adverse reactions to the Covid-19 virus among children are far fewer, on average, than reactions to the seasonal flu among this same cohort. 

A consistent, isolated mercy of SARS-CoV-2/covid-19 infection has been the virus’ mild effect on the overwhelming preponderance of those in the pediatric age range, i.e., <1 to 17 years old. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) U.S. national pediatric covid-19 data hub acknowledges, 0.00%-0.01% of all child COVID-19 cases [have] resulted in death,” while “3 states reported zero child deaths (due to covid-19)”

As affirmed in Rhode Island Superior Court by current Rhode Department of Health (RIDOH) interim Director, Dr. James McDonald, Rhode Island, in addition to the three states referred to by AAP,  also has not had a single pediatric death due to covid-19 during the full, now 2-year course of the pandemic. In contrast, during the H1N1 swine influenza pandemic of 2009-10, there were three Rhode Island pediatric deaths due to influenza within one calendar year (p.15). This finding mirrored national U.S. trends since 2009 (see Table 1., below) where not only pandemic, but seasonal influenza often caused at least 2- to almost 6-fold greater pediatric mortality relative to covid-19 in 2020 or 2021, particularly when ostensible “covid-19 positive test deaths,” with no causal relationship to SARS-CoV-2, are excluded.

[Through 2/16/22; *Adjusted for CDC 35% over counting of covid-19 pediatric deaths by death certificate review https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7014e2.htm?s_cid=mm7014e2_x, i.e., “COVID-19 with no plausible chain of event or significant contributing condition”, =35.2%.; Covid-19: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm;  Past seasonal flu burdens: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/past-seasons.html“Estimating the Burden of 2009 Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) in the United States (April 2009–April 2010)”https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/52/suppl_1/S75/499147 ]

RIDOH has produced an elegant, if unheralded public portal on statewide Rhode Island hospitalizations and emergency department visits by diagnosis, that allows for a further comparison of the pediatric covid-19 and influenza morbidity burdens, from 2018-2020. Joseph Wendelken, the RIDOH spokesman, in an email to me about the portal’s origins and purpose, 2/21/22, noted

“We created this a couple years ago. Previously we did not have a lot of our hospital discharge data up on the website, so the data were only really accessible if we published a report on a specific topic, or if people requested data. We thought it would be good to make some of the data more accessible and user friendly, so we created this page on the main metrics. It allows people to query some aspects of the data themselves.”

Rhode Island data depicted in Figures 1. and 2., below, confirm that pediatric influenza emergency department visits and hospitalizations in 2018 through 2020—including the first covid-19 pandemic year—significantly exceeded 2020 pediatric covid-19 emergency department visits and hospitalizations. These findings provide a rational perspective on risk acceptance, and question draconian if proven ineffectivenon-pharmaceutical intervention” measures such as lockdowns, school closures, mass asymptomatic testing/healthy quarantine, and mask mandates—measures rejected by wiser respiratory virus pandemic planners, summarized here, in 2006.

Lastly, a just published (2/21/22) JAMA-Pediatrics report revealed thar even combining covid-19 with possibly related multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) hospitalizations (total=10.8/100,000) among 5 to11 year-olds, during January to March 2021, resulted in 40% fewer hospitalizations, relative to January to March 2017 seasonal influenza hospitalizations (17.0/100,000), for 5 to 11 year-olds.  

I eagerly await re-examining the RIDOH portal on hospitalizations when the 2021 data become available, hopefully by this April, 2022.

Dr. Andrew Bostom, a Brown University credentialed epidemiologist, is a medical reporter for The Ocean State Current.



Of the following two issues related to Rhode Island’s public schools, which one is a greater concern?

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