As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to affect and claim the lives of older patients, children for some reason, appear to be less affected by the disease. .However, researchers warn that it is important to understand the effect the coronavirus has on children in order to develop an accurate model of the pandemic. The understanding of this interaction will also enable the containment of transmission and guarantee that younger patients receive the appropriate treatment, they stated.
In a commentary published in Pediatrics, the authors stress the need to understand the manner in which COVID-19 affects children as several diseases have varying effects on youngsters and adults.
"Many infectious diseases affect children differently than adults and understanding those differences can yield important insights into disease pathogenesis, informing management and the development of therapeutics. This will likely be true for COVID-19, just as it was for older infectious diseases," they emphasized.
Understanding the risk COVI-19 poses to children
In the commentary, the authors note that even among children, there are specific subgroups that seem to be at a greater risk of suffering from complications brought on by the disease. These include younger children and those who have pulmonary health concerns or are immunocompromised — weak immune systems.
Another concern that the authors raise is that in children who suffered from other viral infections, the true extent of the damage caused by the coronavirus can be difficult to asses. Such children amount to two-thirds of the total number of cases of childhood COVID-19 cases reported. They stated this based on older studies of children in whom coronavirus was detected in the respiratory tract.
"Children without virologic confirmation were more likely to have severe disease than children from whom COVID-19 was detected, potentially because their symptoms were caused by other pathogens," the authors wrote.
Asymptomatic children may play a key role
Much about the disease continues to remain a mystery. Despite that, the authors warn that the role of children, including those who are asymptomatic, could be a major one in the transmission of the disease. To justify this warning, they cited a study that found that the virus in the stool of the children survived for several weeks post-diagnosis.
According to a study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus was found to survive in the faeces of COVID-19 patients for up to 15 days. Therefore, accompanied by other modes of transmissions such as secretions from the nasal cavity, faecal transmission can present a crucial problem for children-dense spaces such as daycare centers and schools. This could also pose a serious risk to the family members of the children the authors note.
"Since many children infected with COVID-19 appear to have mild symptoms, or even no symptoms at all, it is important to practice all the social distancing, hygiene and other precautions being recommended by public health authorities to minimize transmission from children to others, including family members who may be at greater risk from the infection, such as grandparents or family members with chronic medical conditions," said Dr. Steven L. Zeichner, co-author of the commentary, in a statement.