Medically Attended Outpatient Coronavirus Infections in Ecuadorean Children During the 20 Months Preceding Countrywide Lockdown Related to the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic of 2020.


HCoVs were detected in ~7% of outpatient Ecuadorean children <5 years of age with symptoms of acute respiratory tract infection. The most frequently detected HCoV types, and the period of peak HCoV activity differed for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons.

Children <5 years who presented with ≥2 symptoms consistent with an acute respiratory tract infection were eligible for enrollment. After obtaining informed consent, demographic data and details regarding the acute illness were recorded. Secretions collected with a nasopharyngeal swab underwent diagnostic testing using multiplex polymerase chain reaction.

A total of 850 subjects were enrolled. A total of 677 (80%) tested positive for at least 1 pathogen, including 49 (7.2%) who tested positive for ≥1 HCoV type. HCoV-NL63 was the most frequent type detected (39%), followed by HCoV-OC43 (27%), 229E (22%) and HKU1 (12%). Nearly all subjects who tested positive for HCoV had nasal congestion or secretions (47/49; 96%). The most frequent syndromic diagnosis was common cold (41%), followed by bronchiolitis (27%). We found no association between the infecting HCoV type and subject's syndromic diagnosis (P > 0.05) or anatomic location of infection (upper vs. lower respiratory tract; P > 0.05). The 2018-2019 peak HCoV activity occurred from October to November; the 2019-2020 peak occurred from January to February.

Human coronaviruses (HCoVs) cause respiratory tract infections during childhood manifesting as common colds, bronchiolitis, croup and pneumonia. In temperate geographies, HCoV activity peaks between December and March. The epidemiology and manifestations of HCoV infections have not been previously reported from Ecuador.

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