Children Are Likely Major Spreaders Of COVID-19 Even When Asymptomatic, Warns New Research

Children often had viral loads larger than those in adults that were hospitalized in the ICU for COVID, even when displaying no symptoms of the disease.

A young girl wears a covid-19 face mask.
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Children often had viral loads larger than those in adults that were hospitalized in the ICU for COVID, even when displaying no symptoms of the disease.

Conclusions from a new scientific study suggest that children are superspreaders of the novel coronavirus, despite the fact that the disease appears to have little effect on their health.

According to data published on Eurek Alert!, the findings showed that children not only tested positive far more often than previous research had suggested but also carried incredibly large viral loads of COVID, despite being asymptomatic. It is believed that this would make them substantially more contagious, which could be dangerous to family members who are older or at risk of complications from the disease.

In fact, the amount of virus in the children’s bodies was often higher than adults were who hospitalized in intensive care units for COVID-19.

“I was surprised by the high levels of virus we found in children of all ages, especially in the first two days of infection,” confessed Lael Yonker, MD, director of the MGH Cystic Fibrosis Center and lead author of the study.

“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…loads of these hospitalized patients are significantly lower than a ‘healthy child’ who is walking around with a high SARS-CoV-2 viral load,” she added.

Children sit in a classroom while wearing covid face masks.
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Alarmingly, the data also found that 51 percent of the children who carried a high viral load were from low-income communities, which not only are more likely to house multiple generations of family members, but also contain adults who are less willing to receive medical care due to cost restrictions.

In addition, around 20 percent of the children with large amounts of COVID in their bodies had no known household exposure to the disease.

The study looked at over 192 children, ranging from newborns to 22-year-olds at Massachusetts General Hospital. Of those tested, 49 were positive, with an additional 18 displaying late-onset coronavirus-related illnesses.

The scientists noted that previous research had severely underestimated the number of infected children — likely because children are more likely to be asymptomatic or show symptoms that were so mild that they were often confused with the common cold or another ailment.

The findings come just as schools are starting their reopening processes. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, one school in Georgia was forced to send 800 of its students and staff home to begin quarantine after it was believed they were exposed to the illness shortly after beginning the school year.