Asymptomatic children who contract COVID-19 may ‘shed’ coronavirus for weeks

Should families double down on social distancing now that their kids are going back to school?

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that children can spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, albeit they never develop symptoms or maybe long after symptoms have cleared. It found a big variation in how long children continued to “shed” the virus through their tract and, therefore, could potentially remain infectious.

While the virus was detectable for a mean of about 2.5 weeks within the entire group, a big portion of the youngsters —about a fifth of the asymptomatic patients and about half the symptomatic ones — were still shedding virus at three weeks, meaning they were releasing it into the environment. The researchers also found that the duration of COVID-19 symptoms also varied widely, from three days to just about three weeks.

A recent systematic review estimated that 16% of youngsters with a SARS-CoV-2 infection are asymptomatic, but evidence suggests that as many as 45% of pediatric infections are asymptomatic, consistent with the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in children are almost like other infections and noninfectious processes, including influenza, consistent with the CDC.

Such research comes at a crucial time for communities. struggling from the teachers union to delay the beginning of the varsity year.

While children infected with SARS-CoV-2 are less likely than adults to develop severe illness or complications, they’re still in danger of becoming ill. “Recent COVID-19 hospitalization surveillance data shows that the speed of hospitalization among children is low (8 per 100,000 population) compared thereupon in adults (164.5 per 100,000 population),” the CDC said.

Such research comes at a crucial time for families and communities. struggling from the teachers union to delay the beginning of the varsity year, ny City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that in-person classes are going to be pushed back until Sept. 21, 11 days later than planned. Remote learning, also originally slated to start out on Sept. 10, will now commence on Sept. 16.

Other countries haven’t fared so well with school reopenings. Israel, which also reopened schools in the week , had less success when it reopened schools on May 17 amid high temperatures that made it difficult for college kids to wear masks, full classrooms that made social distancing near-impossible and, perhaps, the illusion that the virus had been vanquished, creating a false sense of security.

The risk, as Israel discovered, is providing an environment where children unwittingly spread the virus to every other, which may cause community transmission. That’s particularly worrying for those that have underlying conditions, and therefore the elderly, who are more susceptible to the foremost severe effects of the virus. Community transmission also makes contact tracing harder .

A school outbreak can cause community spread, hence the necessity for staggered school reopenings, social distancing and reduced class sizes. “If we discover a particular number of symptomatic people testing positive, we expect an equivalent number of asymptomatic carriers that are far more difficult to spot and isolate,” said Enrico Lavezzo, a professor within the University of Padua’s department of molecular medicine, who coauthored a study released in June of a quarantined town in Italy.

Children may shed virus for weeks

The latest study within the peer-reviewed JAMA Pediatrics focused on 91 pediatric patients at 22 hospitals in South Korea . “Unlike within the American health system, those that test positive for COVID-19 in South Korea occupy the hospital until they clear their infections albeit they aren’t symptomatic,” said Roberta DeBiasi, chief of the Division of communicable disease at the Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.

The patients were identified for testing through contact tracing or after developing symptoms. About 22% never developed symptoms, 20% were initially asymptomatic but developed symptoms later, and 58% were symptomatic at their initial test. The hospital staff tested them every three days on the average , providing an image of how long viral shedding continues over many weeks.

Among the important findings from the study: Children, a gaggle widely thought to develop mostly mild disease that quickly passes, can shed virus for weeks, DeBiasi and Meghan Delaney, chief of the Division of Pathology and Lab Medicine at the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., wrote during a commentary piece to accompany the study in JAMA Pediatrics.

there have been an outsized number of asymptomatic children: About one-fifth of the group of youngsters studied across 22 South Korean hospitals.

Other key points: Even asymptomatic children continued to shed coronavirus after testing positive, making them potential key vectors. during this study a minimum of , there have been an outsized number of asymptomatic patients: About one-fifth of the group in South Korean hospitals. Researchers said the study provides important insight on the role children might play within the spread of COVID-19.

But the study also had obvious limitations. one among these relates to the link between testing and transmission. A “positive” or “negative” result might not necessarily mean that a toddler is infectious, “with some positives reflecting bits of genetic material which will not be ready to make someone sick,” or, on the opposite hand, “negatives reflecting low levels of virus which will still be infectious.”

Researchers may have tested different parts of the tract and different testers may yield different results. It’s unclear whether symptomatic children shed different quantities of virus than symptomatic patients. They tested for the active virus — not antibodies — excluding those that may have had and cleared an asymptomatic or mild infection, a crucial factor for understanding herd immunity.

However, DeBiasi said studies like these can increase the knowledge of public-health efforts being developed and refined to bring COVID-19 in check . “Each of those pieces of data that we, our collaborators and other scientists round the world are working to collect is critical for developing policies which will slow the speed of viral transmission in our community,” she said.

Coronavirus update

COVID-19 has now killed a minimum of 889,213 people worldwide, and 188,941 within the U.S., Johns Hopkins University says. As of Labor Day , the U.S. still has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases (6,277,847). Worldwide, there has been a minimum of 27,137,624 confirmed cases, which mostly doesn’t account for asymptomatic cases.

AstraZeneca AZN, -1.10% , together with Oxford University; BioNTech SE BNTX, -5.61% and partner Pfizer PFE, -2.40% ; GlaxoSmithKline GSK, -1.61% ; Johnson & Johnson JNJ, -1.23% ; Merck & Co. MERK, -0.31% ; Moderna MRNA, -2.41% ; and Sanofi SAN, -1.34% are among those currently working toward COVID-19 vaccines.

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