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Children may play greater role in coronavirus transmission than previously thought

High viral load detected in children with COVID-19 – even when asymptomatic
COVID-19 in the classroom

High viral load detected in children with COVID-19 even when asymptomatic

Children with COVID-19 may carry a greater viral load than adults with severe symptoms, and be more contagious than previously thought, research suggests.

A US study said infection prevention measures in schools should include social distancing, face masks or remote learning.

Earlier this week, Nursing Standard reported that School and Public Health Nurses Association chief executive Sharon White, emphasised the importance of the school nurse's role in infection control .

She said: Until we get a vaccine for COVID-19, we are in charge of how prevention in schools is run.

Researchers advise schools to introduce extra prevention measures

The study, published in the Journal of Paediatrics, was carried out by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the

High viral load detected in children with COVID-19 – even when asymptomatic


Picture: iStock

Children with COVID-19 may carry a greater viral load than adults with severe symptoms, and be more contagious than previously thought, research suggests.

A US study said infection prevention measures in schools should include social distancing, face masks or remote learning.

Earlier this week, Nursing Standard reported that School and Public Health Nurses Association chief executive Sharon White, emphasised the importance of the school nurse's role in infection control.

She said: ‘Until we get a vaccine for COVID-19, we are in charge of how prevention in schools is run.’

Researchers advise schools to introduce extra prevention measures

The study, published in the Journal of Paediatrics, was carried out by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US.

Researchers assessed 192 children and young people aged up to 22 years who presented for COVID-19 testing either because they had symptoms or suspected that they had been exposed to the virus.

They found 49 of the 192 participants tested positive for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), and an additional 18 children had late-onset COVID-19-related illness.

Only 25 children with COVID-19 presented with symptoms such as a raised temperature.

COVID-19 viral load found to be higher in affected children 

The study found the viral load in children and young people's airways was significantly higher than in adult inpatients with severe COVID-19.  

It means children may be more contagious than was previously thought, despite not showing symptoms and not being as likely to develop COVID-19 as adults.

The study's lead author Lael Yonker said researchers were not expecting the viral load to be so high in children.

‘But the viral loads of hospitalised adult patients are significantly lower than a "healthy child" who is walking around with a high SARS-CoV-2 viral load.'

MGH's director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Centre Alessio Fasano added: ‘If schools were to reopen fully without necessary precautions, it is likely that children will play a larger role in this pandemic.’


Find out more

Paediatric SARS-CoV-2: Clinical Presentation, Infectivity, and Immune Responses


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