California teen may be the first person under 18 to die from coronavirus in the US

Coronavirus-related teen death
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California is being hit hard by the coronavirus, and it is affecting people of all ages. On Tuesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the death of a teenager in Los Angeles County. The teenager was a 17-year-old from Lancaster, California, who could possibly be the youngest person to die so far from the coronavirus in the United States. Although the teen tested positive for COVID-19, it remains unclear if that was his cause of death. Los Angeles public health officials are asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate.

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"The juvenile fatality that the Los Angeles County Department Public Health reported earlier today will require further evaluation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality. Patient privacy prevents our offering further details at this time," said officials in a statement released on Tuesday. What makes the teen's case "complex" is that he also had a bacterial infection.

Originally, the boy’s death was attributed to the coronavirus.

California officials first announced that the teenager from Lancaster was the youngest person in the country to die of coronavirus-related complications. Later, they released another statement saying that the teen's cause of death needed further investigation. The teen did test positive for COVID-19, but there's more to it than that.

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Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said the teenager died of septic shock, but that doesn’t rule out the coronavirus.

Even if the teenage boy died of septic shock, which is a bacterial infection, that doesn’t necessarily rule out the coronavirus as a cause of death as well. “We do know that respiratory viruses in general can exacerbate secondary bacterial infections,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases and professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Stanford University. That means it’s totally possible that the coronavirus the boy tested positive for could have made the bacterial infection even worse and led to the boy’s death.

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This is a reminder that COVID-19 doesn’t care how old you are.

Just last week, the CDC said there were no reported cases of deaths in persons younger than 19. Depending on what is determined to be the cause of death in the case of this California teen, that may no longer be the case. “Tragically, one of the people who died was a person under the age of 18,” Los Angeles County public health director Barbara Ferrer said on Tuesday during a news conference. “A devastating reminder that COVID-19 infects people of all ages.”

Topics: diseases