COVID-19 in Portugal: a retrospective review of paediatric cases, hospital and PICU admissions in the first pandemic year

Cecilia Elias*, Rodrigo Feteira-Santos, Catarina Camarinha, Miguel de Araújo Nobre, Andreia Silva Costa, Leonor Bacelar-Nicolau, Cristina Furtado, Paulo Jorge Nogueira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background COVID-19 is considered by WHO a pandemic with public health emergency repercussions. Children often develop a mild disease with good prognosis and the recognition of children at risk is essential to successfully manage paediatric COVID-19. Quality epidemiological surveillance data are required to characterise and assess the pandemic. Methods Data on all reported paediatric COVID-19 cases, in Portugal, were retrospectively assessed from a fully anonymised dataset provided by the Directorate General for Health (DGS). Paediatric hospital admission results were obtained from the DGS vaccine recommendations and paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission results from the EPICENTRE.PT group. Reported cases and PICU admissions from March 2020 to February 2021 and hospital admissions between March and December 2020 were analysed. Results 92 051 COVID-19 cases were studied, 50.5% males, average age of 10.1 years, corresponding to 5.4% of children in Portugal. The most common symptoms were cough and fever, whereas gastrointestinal symptoms were infrequent. The most common comorbidity was asthma. A high rate of missing surveillance data was noticed, on presentation of disease and comorbidity variables, which warrants a cautious interpretation of results. Hospital admission was required in 0.93% of cases and PICU on 3.48 per 10 000 cases. PICU admission for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) was more frequent in children with no comorbidities and males, severe COVID-19 was rarer and occurred mainly in females and infants. Case fatality rate and mortality rates were low, 1.8 per 100 000 cases and 1.2 per 1 000 000 cases, respectively. Conclusions The overall reported case incidence was 5.4 per 100 children and adolescents and <1% of cases required hospital admission. MIS-C was more frequent in patients with no comorbidities and males. Mortality and case fatality rates were low. Geographic adapted strategies, and information systems to facilitate surveillance are required to improve surveillance data quality.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001499
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Paediatrics Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Epidemiology
  • Mortality


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