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How Risky is COVID-19 for Children?

Pupils at Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s school in south-west London were reportedly told to stay home this week due to concerns over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), ITV reported Thursday. The site reports that four students at St. Thomas’s Battersea School were self-isolating after potential exposure to the virus after traveling to northern Italy (where there are at least 400 cases reported), following news of eight other school closures in the UK and other cases of students being sent home.

Though, as ITV reports, Public Health England (PHE) has not advised closing schools as a rule.

“Like all schools we are taking the potential risks connected with the spread of [COVID-19] very seriously and to this end are following government guidance to the letter around both prevention against infection and in dealing with cases where any staff or pupils are suspected of being exposed to the virus or who display any symptoms,” a spokesperson for the school said in a statement. “We currently have a very small number of pupils who have been tested and these individuals are currently, as per government advice, remaining at home pending the receipt of their test results.”

Following reports from medical officials that community spread of virus is likely, health officials in the United States warned this week of potential “disruption” to day-to-day routines as more cases of the disease are confirmed.

How risky is COVID-19 for children?

According to health officials, most documented cases of COVID-19 that have been reported and studied in China occurred in adults. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, “there is no evidence that children are more susceptible.”

In fact, as a study published in JAMA found earlier this month, most of the reportedly severe and deadly cases — involving the viral pneumonia, acute respiratory distress that requires admittance in the intensive care unit — occur in older individuals (age 49 to 56 years old). particularly those with preexisting chronic medical conditions and immune system issues (like diabetes, high blood pressure, COPD or heart disease).

While there are cases of infections in kids (including very young ones), they add that the symptoms reported are cold-like (fever, runny nose, cough) with at least one case of a child experiencing gastrointestinal problems (like vomiting and diarrhea).

“These limited reports suggest that children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms, and though severe complications (e.g., acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon,” according to the CDC’s resources on COVID-19 and children. “There have been very few reports of the clinical outcomes for children with COVID-19 to date. Limited reports from China suggest that children with confirmed COVID-19 may present with mild symptoms and though severe complications (e.g., acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon. However, as with other respiratory illnesses, certain populations of children may be at increased risk of severe infection, such as children with underlying health conditions.

As previously reported, information about person-to-person and community spread of the virus causing COVID-19 is still developing internationally with agencies continuing to update as they get a clearer picture of how the disease moves.

For prevention, health officials advise that children and adults alike engage in their recommended preventative actions — washing hands (using soap, water, hand sanitizer), avoiding sick people, staying home from work or school when you have respiratory infection symptoms and keeping up to date with your vaccinations.

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