Children and the coronavirus: what we know

As reported by The Guardian, the health effects of the Covid-19 outbreak have generally been milder in children but many unknowns remain

As the number of COVID-19 cases rises worldwide, parents trying to protect their children from the disease can take solace in one thing: the disease has, generally, been milder in children.

However, there are many unknowns about coronavirus, and research is ongoing. Here is what we know now.

Can children catch COVID-19?

Yes. They can be infected – and appear to be able to transmit it even if they do not have symptoms. This is why it is important for children to practice social distancing and hand-washing, even if they do not appear ill.

How does it affect children?

It is generally believed to cause milder symptoms in children, but the specific impacts by age are only becoming clearer as the outbreak goes on.

Much of what we know today is based on reports from China, where the outbreak began. There, 2.4% of all identified cases occurred in children under 19-years-old. An even smaller number within this group of children had severe symptoms, 2.5%, or what the World Health Organization (WHO) describes as ‚a very small proportion’. However, more research is being done and a clearer picture is still emerging.

Why does it affect children differently?

This remains unknown. “The phenomenon is very significant,” Dr Jay C Butler, deputy director of infectious disease at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said while taking part in a live-streamed show hosted by the Journal of the American Medical Association;however, the mechanisms are “really unknown.”

People aged 60 and older, or with existing health conditions, remain the most vulnerable to the virus. This includes people with conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory conditions, according to the WHO.

My child has a health condition. Should I be concerned?

Respiratory conditions, such as asthma, often result in more severe cases of viral diseases such as influenza – but the coronavirus is new, and it remains unknown whether it will more severely affect children with asthma.

Similarly, there is not yet evidence about whether COVID-19 could affect children with diabetes more negatively, which is a risk factor for adults. That said, experts at Johns Hopkins University are warning parents to be vigilant.

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