A new study which has just been published by the American Medical Association in its journal Pediatrics has revealed that children younger than 5 years with COVID-19 do have the potential to spread the dangerous virus. The authors say that their latest findings should be taken into consideration in conversations around the safety of reopening schools.
In the study, researchers from the Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago analysed swab samples from 145 people with mild to moderate COVID-19 illness within the first week they started showing symptoms.
They then compared the viral load in three age groups: children younger than 5 years, children 5-17 years and adults 18-65 years, and discovered that the youngest children carried up to 100 times more of the genetic material for the virus in their noses compared to older children and adults.
“Our study was not designed to prove that younger children spread COVID-19 as much as adults, but that it’s a possibility,” said lead author Dr Taylor Heald-Sargent, a paediatric infectious diseases specialist at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in his report.
He added that “young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population, as has been demonstrated with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), where children with high viral loads are more likely to transmit.” And this, he said, needed to be taken into account to help contain the spread of the virus in communities.
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