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Blood Lead Level Testing Among Children Decreased During COVID-19

THURSDAY, Feb. 4, 2021 -- During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a decrease in blood lead level (BLL) testing among young children, according to research published in the Feb. 5 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Joseph G. Courtney, Ph.D., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed data reported from 34 state and local health departments to describe BLL testing trends among young children (age <6 years) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers found that testing in January to May 2020 decreased by 34 percent compared with testing in January to May 2019, with 480,172 fewer children tested. Due to decreased BLL testing, an estimated 9,603 children with elevated BLL were missed. After the national COVID-19 emergency declaration (March to May 2020), all health departments reported that fewer children were tested for BLL despite geographic variability. In addition, difficulty conducting medical follow-up and environmental investigations for children with elevated BLLs was reported by health departments due to pandemic-associated staffing shortages and constraints on home visits.

"CDC will continue to work with health departments and other partners to develop and disseminate strategies for BLL testing during the pandemic," the authors write. "As surveillance data become available, CDC will conduct analyses to guide decision making and interventions toward ensuring all children receive blood lead screening and appropriate care management during the pandemic."

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Posted: February 2021

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