New research done by Massachusetts General Hospital has shown surprising results, suggesting that children may play a larger role in the community spread of COVID-19 than previously thought.
In the most comprehensive study of COVID-19 pediatric patients to date, the research was aimed to look at how much of the virus an infected children's body produces, in other words, the viral load.
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The study included 192 pediatric patients up to age 22 with most of them being children or teenagers. It should be noted that the doctors are drawing conclusions from limited data since only 49 of the patients tested positive for COVID-19.
The results, according to Dr. Lael Yonker, director of the hospitals’ Cystic Fibrosis Center and lead author of the new study, were surprising, to say the least. Children who had COVID-19 were seen to have a significantly higher level of virus in their airways than adults who had to be hospitalized for treatment.
Yonker said, "I was surprised by the high levels of virus we found in children of all ages, especially in the first two days of infection. I was not expecting the viral load to be so high.
"You think of a hospital, and of all of the precautions taken to treat severely ill adults, but the viral loads of these hospitalized patients are significantly lower than a ‘healthy child’ who is walking around with a high SARS-CoV-2 viral load."
COVID-19's effects on children were not greatly documented until now and names like Elon Musk and Donald Trump were spreading false information about kids having immunity against the virus. With back-to-school season approaching, the findings are of utmost importance.
Dr. Alessio Fasano, a senior author of the study, said in the release, "This study provides much-needed facts for policymakers to make the best decisions possible for schools, daycare centers, and other institutions that serve children. Kids are a possible source of spreading this virus, and this should be taken into account in the planning stages for reopening schools."
The research was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.