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Asymptomatic children can test positive for COVID-19 for weeks – and can “facilitate quiet spread” without masks

A new study suggests that children with coronavirus may be asymptomatic and carry the virus for more than two weeks.  In the photo above, a first grader returns to school on Aug. 27 in Pennsylvania.  (Photo: Getty Images)
A new study suggests that children with coronavirus may be asymptomatic and carry the virus for more than two weeks. In the photo above, a first grader returns to school on Aug. 27 in Pennsylvania. (Photo: Getty Images)

Following a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which found that coronavirus cases were increasing faster in children than in adults, new research sheds light on how it affects young people – and what is needed to ensure that they are not silently spreading the virus.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics in Friday,, followed 91 children in South Korea with confirmed cases of infection from February 18 to March 31. Similar to reports showing that 40 percent of adults may not show any symptoms, a significant number of children tested positive without showing signs of the virus. Of the 91, 20 were completely asymptomatic (ie no symptoms of the virus), 18 were asymptomatic (ie symptoms developed later) and 53 had symptoms, most of which were mild or moderate.

Data collected from 22 health centers rely heavily on South Korea’s aggressive contact tracking program and follow-up testing of those in exposed households (including those without symptoms). Relying only on symptomatic testing, the authors write, would cause them to miss 93 percent of cases. This is a conclusion that may have implications for the transmission. “Infected children may be more likely to go unnoticed with or without symptoms and continue with their normal activities, which may contribute to viral circulation in their community,” the authors conclude.

In an accompanying article to the study, Dr. Megan Delaney, head of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., noted that the United States was not created to identify asymptomatic children – which could exacerbate the pandemic. “A surveillance strategy that tests only symptomatic children will fail to identify children who silently shed the virus as they move around the community and schools,” said Delaney and her co-author, Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Roberta L. DeByazi. “In regions where the use of face masks is not widely accepted or used by the general public, asymptomatic carriers can serve as an important reservoir that can facilitate silent distribution in the community.”

Delaney – who has been testing children at Children’s National since March – says the lack of focus on children and the coronavirus has perpetuated dangerous myths, such as the belief that they are somehow immunized. “It simply came to our notice then [kids] “They weren’t affected when the truth was that they were,” Delaney told Yahoo Life. “However, when you compare a group of children with a group of adults, we find that adults are more likely to have serious illnesses, while children seem less prone.”

Although she believes the lack of serious illness in children is promising, she echoed researchers in South Korea, noting the potential consequences of a large number of asymptomatic and asymptomatic children. “They were able to see children living in the home who were probably behaving well … but some of them actually had the virus,” Delaney said. “Some of them became symptomatic and some did not.”

This may affect the spread of the virus in schools, especially in light of updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which suggest that people who do not have symptoms do not need a test. “This [study] may mean that there are children in the community here in the United States who are not symptomatic, have the virus, and are not sick at all, or [have] a very mild disease, ”says Delaney.

Dr. Dara Cass, a medical assistant at Yahoo Life, says schools need to take the findings into account. “School children, due to the predominance of asymptomatic and presymptomatic cases, are good candidates for observation,” she said. “But if you’re not observing, you certainly should [have] wearing a mask. “

Cass notes that another important aspect of the study is its focus on viral excretion – which means how long the body can release the virus (for example, through sneezing and coughing). As a final point of the data, the researchers measured the number of days of viral shedding and found an overall average of 17. The number was lower for asymptomatic children (average 14.1 days) and higher for symptomatic children, with at least half of this demographic still still shows the presence of the virus on day 21.

The finding is an important window into how long the coronavirus can stay in children’s respiratory systems, but Delaney points out an important distinction: Although someone can still shed the virus, it does not mean that there is enough virus to be infected. “The tests we’re doing here, what we’re looking for are the genes of the virus … so if we find any viral genes, the test will be positive,” Delaney said. “What we think is that over time, your body’s immune system fights this virus, and what we can find at the end of the infection … are just leftovers. The virus has been activated and destroyed by the immune system, but there are still viral types of junk in your body. “

Delaney hopes that areas of the United States can increase contact tracking to conduct such studies, and warns not to simplify the results in the meantime. Cass agrees and emphasizes the need for universal wearing of a mask while regular monitoring is performed. “If we don’t know long enough how contagious you are – and there is a period of time during which you are not symptomatic but contagious – then the best protection we have right now is to wear a mask,” says Cass. “This article repeats this point.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow the address https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over the age of 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be most at risk. If you have any questions, please consult CDC and WHO resource guides.

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