Children less sick from COVID-19, but still spread the virus

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Children less sick from COVID-19, but still spread the virus

Friday, March 13, 2020

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PARIS,France (AFP)— For reasons unknown, children rarely have severe symptoms when infected by COVID-19 and may even be a bit less likely to get the disease in the first place, experts told AFP.

But that doesn't mean infants, toddlers and teens are not carriers for the new coronavirus, which jumped from animals to humans in central China at the end of last year.

As of Friday, there were over 140,000 confirmed cases in 124 countries, with more than 5,000 deaths.

Experts estimate that the true number of infections – many with mild or no symptoms – is far higher.

"We know children get infected with the virus, but they don't appear to get very sick or die," said Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"What we don't know is how much these asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic kids transmit," he told AFP. "This is key to understanding their role in the epidemic."

In a study from mid-February of 44,000 confirmed cases in and around the city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began, the 10-to-19 age bracket made up one per cent of infections and a single death.

Patients under 10 comprised less than one per cent, with no deaths reported.

"We are still trying to wrap our heads around the deficit of cases among those under 20," said Cecile Viboud, an epidemiologist at the US National Institute of Health's Fogarty International Centre.

There are several theories as to why kids, especially young ones, are less prone to serious symptoms.

"Children see so many illnesses in the first years of life that their immune systems are tuned up and respond nicely to novel infection," commented Sharon Nachman, head of paediatric infectious disease at Stony Brook Children's Hospital in New York state.

Whatever the reason, how easily children transmit the disease despite their relative imperviousness to illness "is directly relevant to the idea of closing schools," according to Viboud.

PARIS,France (AFP)— For reasons unknown, children rarely have severe symptoms when infected by COVID-19 and may even be a bit less likely to get the disease in the first place, experts told AFP.

But that doesn't mean infants, toddlers and teens are not carriers for the new coronavirus, which jumped from animals to humans in central China at the end of last year.

As of Friday, there were over 140,000 confirmed cases in 124 countries, with more than 5,000 deaths.

Experts estimate that the true number of infections – many with mild or no symptoms – is far higher.

"We know children get infected with the virus, but they don't appear to get very sick or die," said Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"What we don't know is how much these asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic kids transmit," he told AFP. "This is key to understanding their role in the epidemic."

In a study from mid-February of 44,000 confirmed cases in and around the city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began, the 10-to-19 age bracket made up one per cent of infections and a single death.

Patients under 10 comprised less than one per cent, with no deaths reported.

"We are still trying to wrap our heads around the deficit of cases among those under 20," said Cecile Viboud, an epidemiologist at the US National Institute of Health's Fogarty International Centre.

There are several theories as to why kids, especially young ones, are less prone to serious symptoms.

"Children see so many illnesses in the first years of life that their immune systems are tuned up and respond nicely to novel infection," commented Sharon Nachman, head of paediatric infectious disease at Stony Brook Children's Hospital in New York state.

Whatever the reason, how easily children transmit the disease despite their relative imperviousness to illness "is directly relevant to the idea of closing schools," according to Viboud.


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