Children have rarely infected others with COVID-19
In a new commentary, doctors report that children do not frequently transmit COVID-19 to each other or to adults. The experts say that reopening schools in a safe manner this fall is important for the healthy development of children.
The commentary authors, Dr Benjamin Lee and Dr. William V. Raszka, are pediatric infectious disease specialists on the faculty of the University of Vermont.
The doctors base their commentary on five recent studies that examined COVID-19 transmission among children, who account for less than two percent of all COVID cases.
In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers led by Dr. Klara M. Posfay-Barbe investigated 40 pediatric cases of COVID-19. They found that only three of the children were the first in the family to show symptoms.
In China, experts analyzed cases of children who were admitted to Qingdao Women’s and Children’s Hospital from January 20 to February 27, 2020 with COVID-19. Among the children, 96 percent lived in a household with a previously infected adult.
A study in France revealed that a student with COVID-19 exposed over 80 classmates at three schools to the disease, yet none of the other students were infected. The transmission of other respiratory diseases, including the flu, was common at the three schools.
There were similar findings in New South Wales, where nine infected students and nine infected staff members across 15 schools exposed 735 students and 128 adult to COVID-19. There were only two secondary infections, and only one of the infections was transmitted by a child.
“The data are striking,” said Dr. Raszka. “The key takeaway is that children are not driving the pandemic. After six months, we have a wealth of accumulated data showing that children are less likely to become infected and seem less infectious; it is congregating adults who aren’t following safety protocols who are responsible for driving the upward curve.”
The growing cases of COVID-19 among adults and children in Texas child care facilities have the potential to be misinterpreted, said Dr. Raszka. Across the state, there have been 894 infected staff members and 441 infected children in 883 child care facilities.
“There is widespread transmission of COVID-19 in Texas today, with many adults congregating without observing social distancing or wearing masks,” said Dr. Raszka. “While we don’t yet know the dynamics of the outbreak, it is unlikely that infants and children in daycare are driving the surge. Based on the evidence, it’s more plausible that adults are passing the infection to the children in the vast majority of cases.”
According to the experts, mathematical models show that community-wide social distancing and widespread adoption of facial cloth coverings are far better strategies for stopping the spread of the disease than closing schools. They noted that many schools have reopened in Western Europe and Japan without a rise in community transmissions.
The doctors concluded that opening schools is important for the well-being of children. “By doing so, we could minimize the potentially profound adverse social, developmental, and health costs that our children will continue to suffer until an effective treatment or vaccine can be developed and distributed, or failing that, until we reach herd immunity.”
The commentary is published in the journal Pediatrics.