Health Care

‘Healthy’ kids carry more virus than very sick adults

‘Healthy’ kids carry more virus than very sick adults”

Recommendations from their study, which includes 30 co-authors from MGHfC, MGH, HMS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, include not relying on body temperature or symptom monitoring to identify SARS-CoV-2 infection in the school setting.

In a new study, "Pediatric SARS-CoV-2: Clinical Presentation, Infectivity, and Immune Responses", published Thursday in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers at MGH and MassGeneral Hospital for Children found kids play a larger role in the spread of COVID-19 than previously understood.

This raises the risk for the reopening of schools, day care centres, and other locations that have a high density of children and close interaction with teachers and staff members.

To make matters worse, future pollen and influenza seasons could provide new additional challenges to mitigating coronavirus outbreaks, as those with mild or no symptoms may actually be vessels for huge amounts of viral load but may go untested as a result of seasonal illnesses.

They pointed out children with Covid-19 are not as likely to become seriously ill as adults, which echoes previous studies finding severe disease to be unlikely in young people.

Having a high viral load - the number of particles of the virus someone is infected with - may make people more contagious, evidence suggests. Initially, health experts believed children were nearly immune to the highly infectious virus, as very few even showed symptoms.

"However, our results show that kids aren't protected against this virus. But what we showed is if there is enough virus, you still can get sick and then the viral load doesn't reflect how sick you are". Data from the group show that although younger children have lower numbers of the virus receptor than older children and adults, this does not correlate with a decreased viral load.

The researchers caution that hurried reopening of schools without adequate planning could result in a rise in infections.

US students are returning to school in person and online in the middle of a pandemic, and the stakes for educators and families are rising in the face of emerging research that shows children could be a risk for spreading the new coronavirus. Although a high viral load contributes to the level of contagiousness, it is not the only factor playing a role'. "We should not discount children as potential spreaders for this virus".

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The findings have surprised researchers.

In the study, half of children with Covid-19 came from low-income communities - compared to two per cent from high-income.

The role of children in the spread of COVID-19 has been the subject of debate for months.

"There is no age that has a higher likelihood or a lower likelihood of spreading this infection", she said. It's especially a concern with back-to-school in full swing, and parents torn over virtual or in-person learning.

"There has been some conflicting data out there about the degree to which children can be contagious", said Dr. Marybeth Sexton, assistant professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, who was not involved in the study.

Testing would be particularly important in situations where children are not wearing masks, Yonkers said.

An estimated 70 percent of public school districts in MA are planning to bring kids back, at least part, into classrooms this fall, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday. But the researchers believe in-person learning should only occur under the strictest guidelines.

Along with the viral load, the team examined the expression of the viral receptor and antibody response in healthy children, children with acute SARS-CoV-2 infection and a smaller number of children with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).

Adilia Warris, professor of paediatric infectious diseases at the University of Exeter, said: "The authors do show that children who presented with respiratory symptoms during this pandemic, and who tested positive for Sars-CoV-2, displayed viral loads comparable to adult hospitalised patients, especially in the first two days of symptoms".

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