Coronavirus: Children become infected much less often than parents

Sergei Karpukhin via getty images

While Germany has almost returned to normal in many areas of life, the vast majority of schools and daycare centers remain closed. Countless parents have to look after childcare in parallel to their job. The question of how sensible these school closures are is something that moves many people.

There are different expert opinions on this. Virologist Christian Drosten from the Berlin Charité is considered to be an advocate of school closings. His latest study – for which he had already received criticism from various sides – had shown that the viral load in the throat in children is not significantly lower than in adults. For this reason, the authors of the study explicitly warned of an unrestricted reopening of schools.

A now published study from Baden-Württemberg speaks for the opposite from the supporters’ point of view: “On this basis, we can be responsible for further opening steps of daycare centers and primary schools,” said Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann.

Infected parents do not necessarily infect their child – or vice versa

In the study, the researchers examined how often children get infected compared to adults – and in particular how often children and their parents contract each other. To do this, thousands of parent-child pairs (there were a total of 5,000 study participants) had themselves tested for an acute Covid-19 disease and for antibodies that indicate the illness they have already undergone.

It was found that, in a total of 13 pairs, both had antibodies. Overall, however, they were found in 45 adults and only in 19 children. On the one hand, this means that children appear to be infected only half as often as their parents. However, since the study was not representative and there was no control over what the day-to-day lives of the respective children and parents looked like, not much can be derived from them alone.

However, there were a total of 26 cases in which one of the parents appeared to be infected and the children did not become infected, while only a maximum of 19 cases of infection occurred between the child and the parent – in which case it is not clear whether the two actually did had infected one another or maybe also third parties – suggests that children apparently contract Sars-CoV-2 less often than adults.

In Baden-Württemberg, children only became infected about half as often as adults

Klaus-Michael Debatin, Medical Director of the Clinic for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at the Ulm University Hospital, commented: “Overall, children not only seem to get Covid-19 less often, which has been known for a long time, but also less often due to the SarS-CoV- 2 virus to be infected. “

According to Debatin, this study would lead to the conclusion that children were less likely to become infected, but the concrete numbers could not be extrapolated to Germany, since they are not representative: “However, it should be noted that the results do not affect the entire population directly are transferable because the participants have registered for a quick start to the study and have not been selected at random ”.

So far there have been contradictory research results on this question. In an Icelandic study, no child under the age of ten was found to have corona virus infection, while around one percent of adults tested positive. From China, on the other hand, there have been studies showing that children are infected as often as adults, with fewer symptoms.

London study supports the results

Another study published on June 16 by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and in the journal “Nature Medicine” showed that children show fewer symptoms than adults. Using data from China, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Italy, and Singapore, the scientists concluded that only 21 percent of infected children under the age of ten show symptoms, while this proportion increases with age – and among those over 70 – Finally, 69 percent of years old have symptomatic courses.

But the London study also underpins the results from Baden-Württemberg in another respect: According to it, children under ten years of age only become infected about half as often as adults. This ratio corresponds almost exactly to the empirical findings from southern Germany.

That is why the English researchers also come to the conclusion that the proportionality of measures such as school closings can be questioned: “Accordingly, we find that containment measures that are specifically aimed at children have a relatively small impact on reducing the spread of SarS- Could have CoV-2. “


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