The number and infection rate of COVID-19 cases among children have "steadily" increased between March and July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in recently updated guidance.
The government agency said Friday that the true infection rate is hard to nail down due to the lack of widespread testing and the prioritization of testing for adults and those with severe illness.
As of Aug. 3, 7.3% of all reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States were among children, according to data obtained by the CDC. Children comprise roughly 22% of the U.S. population.
"While children infected with SARS-CoV-2 are less likely to develop severe illness compared with adults, children are still at risk of developing severe illness and complications from COVID-19," the CDC said.
Although "hospitalization rates in children are significantly lower than hospitalization rates in adults," hospitalization rates for children are also increasing.
Recent data shows that the rate of hospitalization among children is 8.0 per 100,000 compared, while the rate for adults is approximately 164.5 per 100,000.
The CDC said children have lower rates of mechanical ventilation and death than adults but cautioned that "1 in 3 children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States were admitted to the intensive care unit," which is the same in adults.
It remains unclear if children are as susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV-2 compared with adults and if they can transmit the virus as effectively as adults. However, they can still unknowingly pass on the virus.
Evidence suggests about 45% of pediatric infections are asymptomatic, the CDC said.
Children with underlying medical conditions and infants may be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. To date, most children who have developed severe illness from COVID-19 had underlying medical conditions, the agency reported.