Can children spread COVID-19? A new study shows it’s likely

Coronavirus

This 2020 electron microscope made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention image shows the spherical coronavirus particles from the first U.S. case of COVID-19. (C.S. Goldsmith / A. Tamin / CDC / AP)

DALLAS (NEXSTAR) — A new study finds children infected with the coronavirus have at least as much of the virus in their noses and throats as infected adults. The research, published by JAMA Pediatrics, also found young kids may host 10 to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults.

While the study doesn’t prove children are passing the virus to others, it does suggest they’re very likely to do so, according to The New York Times.

“One takeaway from this is that we can’t assume that just because kids aren’t getting sick, or very sick, that they don’t have the virus,” said Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, in an interview with The Times.

Previous to this study, there was a hope young children were not major carriers of COVID-19. This research has raised some concerns with many schools slated to soon reopen.

“I’ve heard lots of people saying, ‘Well, kids aren’t susceptible, kids don’t get infected.’ And this clearly shows that’s not true,” said Stacey Schultz-Cherry, a virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, to NYT. “I think this is an important — really important — first step in understanding the role that kids are playing in transmission.”

The researcher behind the study examined swabs taken from 145 people between the ages of 1 and 65. Only children and adults with mild to moderate symptoms were included in the study.

Researchers say their work shows kids have similar, if not even higher, levels of the virus than adults. Heald-Sargent believes the study opens the door to the idea children are contagious.

This new study aligns with recent research from Germany and France that showed children had viral loads as high as adults.

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