From KHN Morning Briefing
A new study says children younger than age 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the coronavirus in the upper respiratory tract as adults. While it does not prove that infected children are contagious, the findings will undoubtedly figure in the contentious the debate on how to reopen schools.
It has been a comforting refrain in the national conversation about reopening schools: Young children are mostly spared by the coronavirus and don’t seem to spread it to others, at least not very often. But on Thursday, a study introduced an unwelcome wrinkle into this smooth narrative. Infected children have at least as much of the coronavirus in their noses and throats as infected adults, according to the research. Indeed, children younger than age 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults, the authors found. (Mandavilli, 7/30)
Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children’s, and her colleagues analyzed data from the diagnostic tests of 145 COVID-19 patients who had mild to moderate cases of the illness. The tests look for pieces of the virus’s RNA, or genetic code, to make a diagnosis.The 145 patients were split into three groups: those under 5, those ages 5 to 17, and adults ages 18 to 65. “Children had equal — if not more — viral RNA in their noses compared to older children and adults,” Heald-Sargent said. (Edwards, 7/30)
Children typically are “superspreaders” of respiratory germs, which makes the fact that they don’t seem to be major transmitters of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 puzzling. They’re relatively absent among hospitalized patients, which initially was thought to be because they’re less likely to become seriously ill once infected. Later studies indicate that those of primary school age, at least, may be less likely to catch the virus in the first place. With schools and universities in the Northern Hemisphere considering reopening in August and September, scientists and public health authorities are trying to determine the role of young people in spreading the pathogen and how best to mitigate that threat. (Gale, 7/29)
In a hidden consequence of the coronavirus pandemic that public health experts find alarming, 16% of parents say their children haven’t received all the vaccinations recommended by their pediatricians, because COVID-19 has made scheduling inconvenient or impossible. The findings, from a national Harris Poll conducted exclusively for Fast Company, suggest that yet another public health crisis could be running parallel to the pandemic. (Meyer, 7/31)