As countries begin to emerge from closures imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, the problem of how the virus affects children and whether schools should be reopened becomes increasingly important.
DOES CHILDREN HAVE A LOW RISK OF COVID-19?
There are fewer cases of COVID-19, a disease caused by coronavirus, among children compared to cases among adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency said about 2% of confirmed US COVID-19 cases were among people under the age of 18. That figure is 2.2% in China, 1.2% in Italy, and 0.8% in Spain, according to the CDC.
But, like the general population, epidemiologists say the figure may not include asymptomatic children, because asymptomatic people are rarely tested for infections.
Officials have also warned doctors to be wary of cases of rarely life-threatening inflammatory syndrome associated with COVID-19 in children, which are reported to be similar to Kawasaki disease.
ARE CHILDREN AS CONTAGIOUS AS ADULTS?
A recent study looked at the international family group COVID-19 and found that children are the initial source of infection in less than 10% of cases. The study report, produced by the University of Queensland and posted on the SSRN precast platform in April, was submitted to the medical journal The Lancet but has not been reviewed by colleagues.
Some small studies in countries such as Iran and France have come to the same conclusion, such as the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.
DO CHILDREN BRING THE SAME NUMBER VIRUSES?
At least one study that examined the number of coronaviruses in the bodies of COVID-19 patients, a measurement known as “viral load,” found that the volume was not age-related.
Researchers at the Institute of Virology at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin said that an analysis earlier this year of nearly 4,000 positive test samples found that very young people did not differ significantly from adults in viral load, leading them to be careful about the reopening of schools without limits .
But a separate analysis from research conducted by the University of Zurich, reminds that the findings are difficult to interpret because of the statistical methods used and the small number of cases identified in children and adolescents.
“Re-analysis of summary data with tests for trends shows that there is moderate, but not excessive, evidence to increase viral load with increasing age,” lead author Dr. Leonhard Held, professor of biostatistics at the University of Zurich.
(Reporting By Deena Beasley, Editing by Aurora Ellis)