Hi there my beautiful lovelies! I hope you all are doing well and staying safe. As a public health person, I constantly try my best to keep me updated about the latest research and findings in public health. That’s why when I saw the latest article by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital on COVID-19 and children, I was really concerned.
The article, “Pediatric SARS-CoV-2: Clinical Presentation, Infectivity, and Immune Responses” has been published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The study looked at 192 children between the age of 0 to 22, with an average age of 10.2 years. This is the most comprehensive study of COVID-19 pediatric patients to date. In this study, 49 children tested positive for COVID-19, and an additional 18 children had late-onset, COVID-19-related illness. The infected children were shown to have a significantly higher level of virus in their airways than hospitalized adults in ICUs for COVID-19 treatment, according to Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Mass General Hospital for Children (MGHfC).
Transmissibility or risk of contagion is greater with a high viral load. And even when children exhibit symptoms typical of COVID-19, like fever, runny nose and cough, they often overlap with common childhood illnesses, including influenza and the common cold. One of the interesting finding from the study is that half of the children with COVID did not have fever. Hence, contact less temperature check as a mean of screening children in school may not be effective.
According to the lead author of the study:
“… 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.”
My dear lovelies, the reason I am mentioning this study is due the current debate about the reopening of schools, daycare centers and other locations with a high density of children and close interaction with teachers and staff members. According to Alessio Fasano, director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at MGH and senior author of the manuscript. “During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have mainly screened symptomatic subjects, so we have reached the erroneous conclusion that the vast majority of people infected are adults. However, our results show that kids are not protected against this virus. We should not discount children as potential spreaders for this virus.”
Children has higher level of viral load, meaning they are more contagious, regardless of their susceptibility to developing COVID-19 infection. According to Harvard Medical School, As MGHfC pediatricians, both Yonker and Fasano are constantly getting questions from parents about the safe return of their children to school and daycare. They agree that the most critical question is what steps the schools will implement “to keep the kids, teachers, and personnel safe.” Recommendations from their study, which includes 30 co-authors from MGHfC, MGH, HMS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, include not relying on body temperature or symptom monitoring to identify SARS-CoV-2 infection in the school setting.
Additionally, the researchers emphasized the relevance of infection control measures, including social distancing, universal mask use (when implementable), effective hand-washing protocols and a combination of remote and in-person learning. They consider routine and continued screening of all students for COVID infection with timely reporting of the results an imperative part of a safe return-to-school policy.
As we debate about school reopening, our leaders should take this study into consideration. This is the most comprehensive study to date. We should all question our state representatives and leaders. Our children are not immune from coronavirus. Just today a six year old child has become the youngest victim of COVID in Florida. Let’s not put any more children and educators’ lives at risk. I urge you to demand your lawmakers to do the right thing. Let do this for the children who don’t have a voice of their own.
————————Happy Reading ———————————–