As we’re getting ever closer to the start of school, there is still so much that we don’t know about how the coronavirus impacts children. There has been much debate about the best way to handle the situation, but some new information from a study in South Korea might shed some light on the problem.
The study was large-scale and found that children between the ages of 10 and 19 can transmit the virus as easily as adults. For children under 10, the rate of transmission was less than adults, but not zero. This is contrary to the belief that many seem to have that children don’t get infected. Experts are saying that if schools reopen, there will be transmission among children and we need to plan for it.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, “What I can’t tell you for sure despite the South Korea study is whether children under 10 in the United States don’t spread the virus the same as children over 10.” She continued, “I think that is still an open question that needs to be studied in the United States. We certainly know from other studies that children under 10 do get infected, it’s just unclear how rapidly they spread the virus.”
The study authors did note that there’ll almost certainly be a rise in cases when schools reopen. They also pointed out the area of concern with middle and high school students. They’re more likely to transmit the virus than other age groups due to a variety of reasons. Often, these children are the same size as adults, but still have unhygienic habits of younger children. On top of that, they’re inclined to socialize with peers and less apt to follow safety precautions.
This news of children and viral transmission comes as a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirm that there is a life-threatening inflammatory syndrome thought to be linked to the coronavirus appearing in youths across the country. In some cases, the syndrome is fatal. The condition is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). It’s been compared to Kawasaki disease, which also causes acute inflammation and coronary artery aneurysms.
The study looked at 186 MIS-C cases in 26 states from March 15th to May 20th. The results showed that 73% of those with the condition were previously healthy. Also, 70% of them tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The onset of MIS-C symptoms seemed to be about 1 – 2 weeks after a child was infected with the virus. On average, the patients needed to be in the hospital for about a week, with 80% requiring a stay in the ICU and 20% needing the ventilator. By the end of the study period, four children had died, 70% had been discharged, and 28% were still hospitalized.
The conclusion of the study’s authors was that MIS-C associated with the coronavirus is a “serious and life-threatening illness” in children and teens who didn’t have any previous health issues. This information, along with the data from the South Korean study, should be carefully considered by public health officials, school officials, and parents in the continued discussion on how to reopen schools. The bottom line should be protecting the physical safety of all children.