Is it really’ as likely’ that children get COVID-19 as adults?

So far, studies have established that children with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, are less vulnerable to infection than adults. But some investigators now say this is not the case.

A child playing
Researchers are still unsure how susceptible SARS-CoV-2 is to infants.

While the new coronavirus continues to spread, the public still wonders who is at highest risk of being contaminated.

Children are a primary concern: how prone are they to infection with SARS-CoV-2, in fact?

Until now, studies in peer-reviewed articles— like this one published last month in JAMA Network — have indicated that children seem less likely to develop COVID-19 than adults.

Now a report has been performed by an international team of researchers— many from the Shenzhen Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Peng Cheng Laboratory, both in China— and reached a different conclusion.

This research is preliminary and in a peer-reviewed journal has not yet been published. It indicates it has not yet undergone an in-depth consistency and accuracy evaluation by field specialists.

The writers have, however, made their results available online in preprint form.

Kids’ infection rate similar to adults’

The researchers analyzed data from people with reported SARS-CoV-2 infections in Shenzhen, China and data from their near contacts.

In total they looked at 391 people who were in close touch with confirmed COVID-19 and 1,286 individuals.

The goal of the researchers was to find out whether near contacts of people with COVID-19 would test positive for SARS-CoV-2, even though they did not show any apparent symptoms of the infection.

The investigators found that children under 10 who were in close contact with people who had COVID-19 displayed an infection rate of 7.4 percent — quite comparable to the infection rate of 7.9 percent in adults.

However, the researchers also found that children were less likely to develop symptoms, while they were as likely to contract the virus as adults did.

“Children are just as likely to get infected[ as adults] and do not get sick,” reports co-author Justin Lessler, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.

Researchers also say in the study paper that people who lived with people who had diagnosed COVID-19 were more likely to develop the infection than others who were close to them.

Still, they write that “even in this community, less than 1 out of 6 contacts have been infected; and, overall, far less than one (0.4) forward transmission per primary case was observed.”

The researchers warn that their analysis “has several limitations,” since the data were gathered by different teams following different protocols, and while definitions of what classified as SARS-CoV-2 infection changed as understanding of the outbreak grew.

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