Early on in the pandemic, researchers were puzzled over why certain groups of the population were reacting differently to COVID-19 than others. Gender, race/ethnicity, pre existing conditions, and age all seemed to influence whether an individual got infected with the virus, whether or not they developed symptoms, how severe of an illness they endured, and their ability to spread the virus. One of the biggest misconceptions developed in the early months of the virus was that children were “immune” to it—primarily because there were so few pediatric cases of coronavirus initially. However, if you still believe that children don’t get sick from coronavirus and/or cannot transmit it, you are making a grave misconception, warns one Yale infectious disease expert. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
Children ‘May Still Transmit the Virus’
Eugene Shapiro, MD, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious disease expert and professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, explains to Eat This, Not That! Health that children not only become infected with the virus, but are 100 percent capable of spreading it to others.
“Children develop serious disease less frequently than do adults—although rarely they can get very sick and even die from the infection — but they still may transmit the virus to others even if they have no or only minimal symptoms,” Dr. Shapiro explains.
The fact that most children don’t develop symptoms is good in one aspect. However, it also complicates matters, as it is nearly impossible to identify the illness and gives them the opportunity to unknowingly spread the virus to others.
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One recent study published in The Journal of Pediatrics also found that infected children have a significantly higher level of virus in their airways than hospitalized adults in ICUs for COVID-19 treatment. Due to the fact that transmissibility or risk of contagion is greater with a high viral load, this may mean that they have the ability to spread the virus at a greater rate than adults.
“Kids are not immune from this infection, and their symptoms don’t correlate with exposure and infection,” Alessio Fasano, director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at MGH and senior author of the study explained in an accompanying press release. “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.”
Additionally, a small percentage of children have gotten very sick as a result of the virus, Dr. Shapiro points out. “They may develop a late and still poorly understood syndrome, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a post-infectious inflammatory disorder that also may be fatal,” he says.
Symptoms include some combination of fever, red eyes, swollen hands and feet, rash, and gastrointestinal problems, all of which are symptoms related to inflammation, per Yale Medicine.
How to Avoid COVID-19
To keep your children safe and to potentially prevent them from spreading the virus to others, stick to the fundamentals—social distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowded spaces, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces. Additionally, the CDC recommends limiting contact with at-risk populations — such as older adults. As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.