Back to school season is almost upon us, but instead of celebrating a quiet home soon or buying school supplies, many parents are rather panicking if their children will be in class and safe from the coronavirus. And, of course, if they are back in school, there is the question of whether they will bring the virus home. Now, a new study is giving a startling insight into these questions. The study, outside the School of Medicine, from Northwestern Feinberg University, found that young children in particular carry far more coronavirus than adults. In fact, research found up to one “100 times more SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract of young children”; under 5 years.
New study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at 145 COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate illness within a week of starting their symptoms. The researchers compared three age groups: young children under 5 years old, children between 5 and 17 years old and adults from 18 to 65 years old. While they found similar amounts of coronavirus present in older and older children, in children under 5, they found 10 to 100 times more particles in the respiratory tract.
The research was led by Taylor Heald-Sargent, MD, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in agoikago. In the report, Heald-Sargent and her team note that children often direct the spread of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases – and COVID-19 may not be otherwise.
“This ultimately shows that children have virus-like levels and possibly even higher than adults,” Heald-Sargent told New York Times. “It would not be surprising if they were able to shed [the virus]”and spread it to others. (Viral shedding shows how long someone releases contaminated particles.” Evidence suggests that the novel coronavirus is more contagious when symptoms are worse and viral shedding is high, “notes WebMD.)
The research notes that closing schools at the onset of the pandemic is likely to “disrupt large-scale school investigations as a source of community transmission”. In other words, we still do not know if the schools are predominantly COVID-19 because we closed them in the first weeks of the outbreak.
“The school situation is so complicated – there are many nuances beyond the scientific one,” Heald-Sargent told recently.
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A recent study from South Korea – published in the journal CDC Developing Infectious Diseases—looked at whether or not children spread COVID-19. The researchers looked at 5,700 people who reported symptoms of coronavirus between January 20 and March 27, which is when South Korea closed schools. The findings show that those between the ages of 10 and 19 are more likely to spread the coronavirus to their families.
“We found COVID-19 in 11.8 percent of home contacts; rates were higher for child contacts than adults,” the researchers said. About 19 percent of those who had a home with sick patients in that 10-19 age group also contracted COVID-19. Children younger than 10 years old were less likely to spread the disease (about 5 percent of their contacts became ill). So there is evidence that children of a certain age are more infectious.
As for the new study, Heald-Sargent told recently, “One take from this is that we can not assume that just because children do not get sick, or are very sick, that they do not have the virus.” And for more on kids and COVID, see 8 Best Ways With Kids Can Spread COVID In School, Experts Say.
Video: What We Know About Kids and Covid-19 (QuickTake)