Children and adults contract COVID-19 at near equal rates, but kids are much more likely to have asymptomatic cases, a new study finds.
Researchers from Liège University Hospital in Belgium – 25 miles from the border with Germany – set up a testing and tracing program at a local elementary school to discover how the virus transmits in the school environment.
A total of 63 children and 118 adults took part in the study that lasted from September to December 2020.
During the study period, around an even share of adults and children contracted the virus, though the kids were four times as likely have an asymptomatic case.
The team also found that adults often transmitted the virus to other adults while children were contracting the virus from other children.
Adults and children contracted COVID-19 at almost the same rates during the study period, though children were nearly four times as likely to have an asymptomatic case (above)
Researchers found that adults often contracted the virus from other adults while children mainly transmitted the virus among each other as well (above)
Of the 63 children who took part in the study, which was published on Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, 13 tested positive for the virus – or one out of every five.
The team also detected 32 cases among the 118 adults – or just over one out of every four adults contracting the virus during the 15 week period.
While there was almost an even amount of cases between adults and children, infection was more severe for the adults.
Only four of the 32 adults who contracted COVID-19 were asymptomatic compared to six of 13 children.
Children were 3.8 times more likely to have an asymptomatic case than their teachers and other staff at the school.
The median days of symptoms for children was zero, while it was 15 days for the adults.
The Belgian researchers are worried that so many people contracted the virus within schools, and think more measures should be put in place to prevent outbreaks and safely maintain in-person learning. Pictured: A child receives a COVID-19 test in New York, New York on August 5
The Belgian study matches findings from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention last week.
A CDC team found that around half of children who contract COVID-19 will not experience any symptoms, while nearly 90 percent of adults will.
While serious cases among children are low, the Belgian researchers are still worried about the high level of Covid transmission found in schools.
‘Despite the implementation of several mitigation measures, the incidence of COVID-19 among children attending primary school in this study was comparable to that observed among teachers and parents,’ the researchers wrote.
‘Transmission tree reconstruction suggests that most transmission events originated from within the school. Additional measures should be considered to reduce the transmission of [Covid] at school, including intensified testing.’
In the U.S., schools have been found to be at the center of many Covid outbreaks.
While cases are relatively minor among children – and adult staff members have access to the COVID-19 vaccines that can protect them from serious infection – these outbreaks can still disrupt school and force closures.
Currently in the U.S., everyone aged 12 or older is eligible for a Covid vaccine.
Just over 76 percent of eligible Americans have received at least one shot of the vaccine, and 66 percent of people are fully vaccinated.
Many health officials are pushing for vaccine eligibility to widened to include children as well.
Pfizer is also pushing for its vaccine – a joint effort with BioNTech that is the most commonly distributed shot in America – to be made eligible to all Americans five or older.
Even if vaccine eligibility is expanded, parents of children seem to be evenly split on whether or not their children will be receiving the shots.
One survey, conducted by CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine in July, that 39 percent of parents said their children already gotten a coronavirus shot.
However, 40 percent of parents also said it was ‘unlikely’ that their children would be getting vaccinated.
Another poll from Axios/Ipsos in September found that 44 percent of parents of children aged five to 11 said their kids were likely to get a vaccine and 42 percent said it was unlikely their children would be immunized.