How Does Coronavirus Affect Children? Here Are the Latest Findings

By Gabrielle Wanneh — March 20, 2020 2 min read
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A new study from China offers some of the most extensive evidence to date on how the novel coronavirus affects children.

Medical researchers in Shanghai recently examined the epidemiological traits and transmission patterns on COVID-19 in 2,143 pediatric patients. Among the study sample, about 34 percent of patients were confirmed to have had the virus while 66 percent were suspected cases. The typical age range of the children in the study was 2 to 13.

Although several studies have been conducted since the initial outbreak of the virus in Wuhan in December 2019, little information has been available so far on the virus’ impact on children.

The study found that children under 18 are indeed susceptible to COVID-19, with no significant discrepancies between genders, although there were slightly more boys affected than girls.

But the findings provided further evidence that the virus may be gentler on children than adults. Over 90 percent of all cases were diagnosed to be asymptomatic, mild, or moderate, as opposed to severe or critical, and researchers were puzzled about the reasons why the effects were comparatively less severe for children. They did find, however, that infants and younger children were more vulnerable to the disease than older children. One child, a 14-year-old from the province of Wuhan, died.

Fewer than 6 percent of the cases studied were categorized as critical, compared with more than 18 percent among the adults infected in China.

The study also provides strong evidence that human-to-human transmission plays a major role in the spread of COVID-19, according to the study, bolstering educators’ decisions in the United States and around the world to close schools in response to the pandemic. The Chinese researchers reasoned that it is unlikely that children were around the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market where the first adult cases were reported.

Almost half of the pediatric patients were from the Hubei province, while less than 20 percent were from bordering provinces. Apart from one province, more children were affected in areas in or surrounding Hubei than in those that were farther .

The study was not able to assess the clinical characteristics of COVID-19.

According to the EdWeekCoronavirus and School Closures Map, as of March 19, at least 95,000 public and private schools are either closed, scheduled to close, or scheduled to reopen across the United States and at least 43.9 million students have been affected.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics by researchers from Shanghai Children’s Medical Center and Shang Hang Jiao Tong University School of Medicine.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.