As some countries begin to open schools, questions remain about the effects of the coronavirus on children and their ability to transmit the disease.
“There are three key issues: the level of infection in children, the severity of those who become ill, and transmission. But only for the second we have solid data “ , summarizes Russell Viner , president of the Royal College of British Pediatrics.
And the conclusion is that severe forms of the coronavirus and deaths are exceptional among the smallest.
According to the British pediatric site Don’t Forget The Bubbles (DTFB) , children represent around 1% of critical cases in the world, with “only a handful of deaths . “
Level of infection
The WHO judges that “children and adolescents are as susceptible to infection as any other age group . “
However, pediatric cases diagnosed in the world represent only between 1 and 5% of the total, according to the agency Santé Publique France , which nevertheless justifies this figure in the fact that children have few or no symptoms and, therefore, , they are more difficult to diagnose.
On the other hand, other experts point out that they are less susceptible to getting COVID-19 , especially those younger than 10 years old.
Based on tests carried out on a massive scale in countries such as South Korea and Iceland, two pediatric specialists, Alasdair Munro and Damian Roland , estimated at the DTFB site “it is increasingly likely that there are fewer infected children “ than adults.
What is known about the effects of the new coronavirus in children?
While children were originally believed to be important vectors of the coronavirus by analogy with other viral illnesses such as influenza, several studies suggest otherwise.
For example, there is the case of a 9-year-old boy in France who was in contact with 172 individuals, without contaminating any. Instead, he transmitted other viruses that he had contracted, such as the flu.
Children could also be less contagious due to the fact that “they do not have symptoms and do not cough,” according to the French expert Arnaud Fontanet , who, like other scientists in the world, conducts a study in schools to verify these hypotheses.
A new inflammatory disease?
Several countries such as Spain, France, the United Kingdom and the United States recently reported a few dozen cases of children suffering from an inflammatory disease whose symptoms resemble Kawasaki disease, a rare disease. Some tested positive for COVID-19 .
Symptoms are high fever, abdominal pain, digestive problems, and skin rashes, followed in some cases by a heart problem.
British doctors who analyzed the first eight cases observed in London wrote in the medical journal The Lancet that it could be “a new phenomenon affecting children who did not show symptoms and for whom the SARS-CoV-2 infection manifests itself as a syndrome hyperinflammatory » .
The majority of affected children respond positively to treatments.
The reopening of schools
Scientists are divided over whether to reopen schools.
In Italy, the Higher Institute of Health believes that this would reactivate the epidemic ” immediately “.
In Spain, schools will remain closed until September, except for particular cases.
Instead, Germany, Denmark and France will reopen them with the appropriate social distancing measures.
These countries consider in particular that the social benefits of a return to school outweigh the health risks.
Returning to school in Europe “will reveal the impact of its closure and reopening” on the epidemic, according to Keith Neal , professor emeritus of infectious disease epidemiology at the English University of Nottingham .