One of the more frustrating parts of the coronavirus pandemic being a worldwide developing story is that new information is introduced, reevaluated and acknowledged by experts as they are able to learn more about the virus. Despite the most recent updates about how the coronavirus could potentially be linked to a pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome, the understanding was that COVID-19 (the respiratory illness caused by the virus) is generally milder in children and that there was no evidence children were more susceptible to the virus.
A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics reassesses what we thought we knew about COVID-19 and children. Analyzing data from tests on 145 COVID-19 patients with moderate illness (with groups under five years old, ages five to 17 and ages 18 to 65), researchers at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago found that “children younger than [five] years with mild to moderate COVID-19 have high amounts of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in their nasopharynx compared with older children and adults,” per the study. Which means they have just as much of the virus — if not more — present there than adults and older kids.
Looking at these numbers, researchers note that kids may play a larger role in how the virus has spread to the population: “Thus, young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population, as has been demonstrated with respiratory syncytial virus, where children with high viral loads are more likely to transmit.”
This study isn’t the first to find evidence that kids are potentially able to transmit the virus (often without showing any symptoms). In Germany, Christian Drosten, a virologist (who coincidentally went viral), and his team had similar conclusions, noting that “in particular, these data indicate that viral loads in the very young do not differ significantly from those of adults. Based on these results, we have to caution against an unlimited re-opening of schools and kindergartens in the present situation. Children may be as infectious as adults.”
As more information on how the virus moves through children (and the adults who live with and care for them), we can hope that the new information will inform any plans for returning to non-virtual schools in the coming months.
Before you go, check out the best kids face masks you (probably) won’t have to wrestle on to tiny faces: