Children under the age of five with mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19 could transmit the virus “as much as other age groups,” according to a study published today in the journal Jama, by the American Medical Association.
The team of scientists saw that “children under five with COVID-19 have a higher viral load than older children and adults, which may suggest more transmission, as we see with the respiratory syncytial virus,” explained the principal investigator, Taylor Heald-Sargent.
In addition, he considered that “this has important public health implications, especially during the debates on the safety of reopening schools and kindergartens.”
The study “was not designed to prove that younger children spread COVID-19 as much as adults, but it is a possibility,” added Heald-Sargent of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
However, he considered that it must be taken into account “in efforts to reduce transmission while we continue to learn more about this virus.”
The team analyzed 145 patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 in the first week of symptom onset and compared viral load in three age groups, children under 5, children 5 to 17 years old, and adults ages 18 to 65. years.
Children younger than 5 years with mild to moderate COVID-19 have “much higher levels of genetic material for the virus in the nose compared to older children and adults,” the study added.
In addition, he notes that the ability of younger children to spread COVID-19 “may not have been sufficiently recognized,” given the rapid and sustained closure of schools and daycare centers during a pandemic.