Coronavirus in children: Kids of all age equally capable of carrying high viral loads, confirms study; What it means

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October 16, 2021 12:11 PM

A study published in Journal of Infectious Diseases, and accessed by Financial Express Online, looked at 110 children aged between two weeks and 21 years.

These children and adolescents had tested positive for COVID-19 at either the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) or urgent care clinics. (Representational image)

Coronavirus in children: When the pandemic began to gather pace in the March of 2020, initial studies showed that children were not susceptible to coronavirus, and therefore, most of the focus of health authorities remained towards adults and bringing out treatment to stop the spread of the virus. Then, as the second wave of the pandemic started receding in India, global health authorities warned that it were the teenagers who could likely usher in a third wave of coronavirus pandemic towards the end of 2021. Now though, researchers have confirmed that children of all ages – from infants to adolescents – are equally capable of carrying high SARS-CoV-2 load in their respiratory system.

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A study published in Journal of Infectious Diseases, and accessed by Financial Express Online, looked at 110 children aged between two weeks and 21 years. These children and adolescents had tested positive for COVID-19 at either the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) or urgent care clinics. The study was conducted by MGH researchers, along with scientists from Massachusetts-based Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard. It was found that high levels of SARS-CoV-2 corresponded with live, infectious virus and these levels were found to be the highest in the early stages of illness among children, regardless of whether the infection was symptomatic or asymptomatic.

It was also found that the amount of viral load did not have any relation to the age of the children.

Co-first author of the study and MD, pediatric pulmonologist at MGH Lael Yonker said that questions had been doing round as to whether the high viral load in children had any link to a live virus, that is virus that is replicating. He added that their study has been able to show definitively that these high viral loads are, in fact, infectious.

In somewhat of a relief, however, the researchers found that the presence of high viral loads did not correlate to children themselves having a severe infection, but on the other hand, these high levels are a cause for concern for the children themselves and those around them because this means that children can carry the virus and also infect other people. This is especially concerning since most of the countries have been reopening schools, since they have largely been under the impression that children do not carry high viral loads.

Now, though, in light of this study, countries might have to rethink their stance on the matter, as it could pose problems for other children, teachers as well as school staffs, especially considering the fact that globally, vaccination among children has not yet begun.

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