Several studies suggest that children could be “silent spreaders” and play a significant role in spreading the virus.
Amid the debate about whether schools should hold in-person classes, more evidence is now pointing kids as “silent spreaders.”
Studies conducted by various researchers showed different aspects of how children likely act as silent spreaders. Medical professionals from South Korea, for instance, found that kids shed the virus longer, while scientists from the Massachusetts General Hospital discovered that kids carry high viral loads.
Kids carry coronavirus longer
Based on a study recently published in JAMA Pediatrics, children may play a significant part in spreading the coronavirus by carrying it longer than the average 14-day duration of shedding the virus.
The study was conducted by a team of scientists from South Korea wherein they analyzed data of 91 children infected with SARS-CoV-2 across 22 hospitals between February and March. The said children were also tested for every three days to check their viral load levels as well as symptoms.
Per their conclusion, they found that children—regardless of symptoms—carry the virus up to 21 days after the first diagnosis, with an average of 17 days. An estimated 22% are listed as asymptomatic too, while one in four patients develop symptoms either after or 25 days later since the diagnosis.
Due to the apparent risk of children being silent spreaders, medical professionals from Children’s National Hospital said that “universal testing” for kids would be crucial to mitigate the spread.
“A surveillance strategy that tests only symptomatic children will fail to identify children who are silently shedding virus while moving about their community and schools,” Dr. Roberta DeBiasi and Dr. Meghan Delaney wrote.
The two also argued that more research is needed to better understand how the coronavirus behaves and affects children, saying “ we are shooting in the dark” without that much-needed data.
Children carry high viral load
In a separate study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers also discovered that kids with COVID-19 carry a significant amount of the virus in their airways compared to hospitalized adults or with severe symptoms.
The research was conducted by a team of experts from Massachusetts General Hospital and Mass General Hospital for Children wherein it shows viral loads of infected kids do not decrease even though they are less likely to develop severe symptoms or get infected.
“The viral loads of these hospitalized patients are significantly lower than a ‘healthy child’ who is walking around with a high SARS-CoV-2 viral load,” said the study’s lead author Lael Yonker, per Forbes.
Yonker also said she was shocked and did not expect that children of all ages carry a high viral load, particularly in the first two days of the infection.