2 Studies Suggest Young Children May Be Major Drivers of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Published: August 5, 2020

Two new studies — one done in Chicago and the other in Trento, Italy — have found that although children under five years of age are less likely to become ill from COVID-19, they transmit the coronavirus more efficiently than adults.

Specifically, the Chicago study found that children five years or younger with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms have 10 to 100 times as much SARS-CoV-2 in their nasal passages as older children and adults, reports Forbes. This means that these children can “potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population,” according to the study’s research letter, which was released last week by the JAMA Network.

The study also found that children, ages five to 17 with mild or moderate coronavirus symptoms have as much virus in their nasopharynx as adults.

The pre-print manuscript of the Italian contact tracing study said that compared to people over the age of 18, children under the age of 15 were more than twice as likely to transmit the virus to other children and adults. Additionally, the younger the child, the more efficient they were at transmitting SARS-CoV-2.

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The results of both studies have serious implications for K-12 school districts that are considering holding in-person classes at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. About one in four American school teachers are considered high-risk for contracting COVID-19 due to their underlying health conditions and/or age.

Complicating the matter further, the findings of the Chicago and Italian studies appear to contradict results of a study from South Korea that was released in July. That research project found that children under the age of 10 transmit the virus to others much less frequently than adults.

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