Understanding how COVID-19 affects children vital to slowing infectious diseases’ spread

March 25, 2020

A recent commentary reveals a small percentage of children infected with COVID-19 can become seriously ill – researchers thus caution that it is critical to understand how the virus affects children to model the pandemic accurately, limit the disease’s spread, and hopefully treat infected patients. Though COVID-19 so far appears to be largely sparing children, many infectious diseases affect children differently than adults, claim physicians Steven L. Zeichner and Andrea T. Cruz, of the University of Virginia Health’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine, respectively.

Zeichner and Cruz note that there are subgroups of children who appear to be at greater risk of COVID-19 complications, particularly those who are younger, immuno compromised or have other pulmonary health problems.However, due to the presence of other viral infections in up to two-thirds of childhood coronavirus cases it is proving difficult to assess the true effect of COVID-19 on children.

Regardless, Cruz and Zeichner caution that children, even asymptomatic children, could play a “major role” in disease transmission. The physicians cite a previous study that found that the virus remained in children’s stool for several weeks after diagnosis; combined with other routes of transmission such as nasal secretions, the virus could pose a major challenge for schools, day care centres and the children’s families.

Zeichner, who is currently working on potential COVID-19 vaccines in his lab, said, “It is important to practice the social distancing, hygiene and other precautions being recommended by public health authorities to minimise transmission from children to others, including family members who may be at greater risk from the infection, such as grandparents or family members with chronic medical conditions.”


Category: Features, Health alert

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