CALGARY -- Data is being collected from hospitals around the world as a research group, led by a University of Calgary scientist, attempts to improve how children with COVID-19 are diagnosed and treated.

Dr. Stephen Freedman, a Calgary-based pediatric emergency physician and a clinician scientist, is leading an international group of researchers for the study. Data from approximately 12,500 pediatric patients with respiratory concerns will be collectively gathered from nearly 50 emergency rooms in 14 different countries.

"We want to identify the differences in symptoms between children infected by SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses such as influenza so we can tailor testing and treatment approaches to achieve the best results," said Freedman in a statement released Tuesday. "Very little research has been published on COVID-19 infection in children and healthcare professionals need information now."

The Alberta Children's Hospital is among the sites participating in the study. The collected data will be shared with researchers, clinicians and health agencies in real time.

The medical experience of patients who contract the virus will be followed for a period of 90 days with records collected of their lab tests, x-rays, treatment and outcome. The study will document the child's travel history and potential exposure to the virus as well as their symptoms.

"It seems that adults get sickest seven-to-10 days after first seeing a doctor," said Freedman. "We need to know whether that’s the same for children so that we can identify at-risk children, provide them with the most beneficial interventions, at the best time to promote their recovery."

Researchers will also document pediatric patients with respiratory illness who test negative for COVID-19

The study is being funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.