FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – As teachers and students across the state prepare to return to school this fall, there is concern about the risk of children contracting the novel Coronavirus and spreading it.
“The key thing that we need to remind people is what is happening in the community affects what’s happening in these environments like schools,” said Dr. John Christenson of Riley Children’s Health. “So if there is a lot of Covid activity in the community you’ll see more cases in schools.”
Christenson , who specializes in the study of infectious disease at Riley Children’s Health, said there have minimal studies done about COVID-19 in children across the United States. However, according to the Indiana State Department of Health, young people who are 19-years-old and younger account for 9.5 percent of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases.
“Children tend to have lower incidents of infection and when they are infected, it is less severe,” he said. “I think there’s a misconception about children’s ability to get and spread the virus because we see a lot of sick adults but not a lot of sick children.”
Christenson said school closures in March stopped the virus from circulating more widely among children. It is also possible that because children may more often be asymptomatic, they are less likely to be tested for the novel Coronavirus, according to Christenson.
“One of the biggest problems we have in the United States is that the bulk of this testing is being done on people who are symptomatic,” he said. “
IU School of Public Health and the Indiana State Health Department have conducted studies that revealed for every one person who is symptomatic, there are about 11 people who don’t exhibit symptoms, Christenson said.
The decision to send children back to the classroom is not one parents and school administrators are taking lightly. Although kids do appear to have a lower infection rate than adults, doctors said it is important for people to know they are not immune from the virus and can spread it.
Doctors have relied on studies of reports of COVID-19 clusters of the virus in American families. They are also analyzing studies from other countries around the world.
Christenson said some studies have revealed that the older the child is, he or she would be more likely to display symptoms similar to adults. That is especially for children who are children 9-years-old and older. He said the focus will need to be with the older children because they are more effectively transmitting the virus and will get sicker with it.
“One study out of South Korea showed they got sicker and they were potentially a greater risk of transmitting the virus,” he said. “Because as you age and you have symptoms, you tend to cough more and with that you tend to transmit the virus.”
However, that’s not necessarily the case for younger children and infants. Christensen said younger children may not transmit the virus as much because they often do not cough or displaying other symptoms that put people at risk.
Social distancing and wearing masks is important for everyone, including children, to avoid the spread of the virus as we enter the school year, experts said.
Schools are doing everything they can to ensure a safe return to the classroom but experts likely will not have a clear idea of how this virus is spread among children in the United States until after school starts.