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Covid-19: A study suggests children are more infectious

CAPE TOWN – A recent study finds that children may play a bigger role in Covid-19 community spreading than initially thought.

The study called ‘Pediatric SARS-CoV-2: Clinical Presentation, Infectivity, and Immune Reponses’ was published today in The Journal of Pediatrics.

The researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Mass General Hospital for Children sought to understand the role in which children play during the pandemic and identify factors of severe illnesses regarding Covid-19 with 192 children enrolled in the study.

The study found 49 children (26 percent) tested positive with only 25 with the infection presenting associated Covid-19 symptoms and ever. The researchers also found that the viral load found in children within the first 2 days of the symptom onset were significantly higher than adults that were hospitalised due to severe illness from the virus.

“I was surprised by the high levels of virus we found in children of all ages, especially in the first two days of infection,” said lead author, Lael Yonker, “I was not expecting the viral load to be so high. You think of a hospital, and of all of the precautions taken to treat severely ill adults, but the viral loads of these hospitalized patients are significantly lower than a ‘healthy child’ who is walking around with a high SARS-CoV-2 viral load.”

Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and study co-author, Alessio Fasano said, “During this Covid-19 pandemic, we have mainly screened symptomatic subjects, so we have reached the erroneous conclusion that the vast majority of people infected are adults. However, our results show that kids are not protected against this virus. We should not discount children as potential spreaders for this virus.”

The findings of the study suggest that although children are less likely to become infected or seriously ill due to lower numbers of virus receptors, they can carry high viral loads which means that they are more contagious.

With the reopening of schools and a possible second wave of infections in South Africa according to reports, these findings could play an important role in planning with children playing a bigger role in transmission than initially thought.

 

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