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SARS-CoV-2: What role do children play in the corona pandemic?
It has been known for a long time that coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is very different in the infected. For example, risk groups such as the elderly, obese, immunocompromised or people with certain previous illnesses have a higher risk of developing a severe course. Children, on the other hand, don't get so sick. And they are not "virus hurlers" either.
There is currently a lot of discussion about the role children play in the corona pandemic. Dr. Nicolaus Schwerk, specialist in pediatric pneumology and allergology at the Hannover Medical School (MHH), provides a message on the current state of knowledge.
No exact statements are possible yet
Are children less often infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus than older people? How contagious are they and how big is the risk that they will become seriously ill?
One thing is certain: At the moment there can be no exact statements, only estimates.
"We lack the data," says Dr. Nicolaus Schwerk. "We need systematic studies of large numbers of children with and without symptoms and over a longer period of time."
Lower risk of serious illnesses
According to Dr. The danger of getting infected is heavy, for children it is similar to that for adults.
However, there are indications that the risk for children - if they have become infected - that is difficult to develop is significantly lower than that of adults.
Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the renowned Mayo Clinic (USA), gave an older article explaining why children don't get so bad:
“One theory says that we know that there are other corona viruses that circulate in the community and cause colds. And because children often have a cold, it is believed that some of these antibodies offer some protection against this coronavirus, ”explained the doctor.
"The other thing is that children's immune systems may interact with this virus, which is different from what we see in some older adults or people with more severe illness," said Dr. Rajapakse.
And: "An additional factor can be related to the fact that children suffer much less frequently from other underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases or weakened immune systems than older adults."
Viral load in children no greater than in adults
According to the MHH communication, the term “virus thrower” that is used in the media cannot apply to children according to current knowledge. They therefore appear to have the same risk of infection as adults.
Dr. Schwerk refers to the recently published study by Prof. Christian Drosten from the Charité Berlin. There is evidence here that the viral load - the amount of virus that infected people produce - is just as great in children as in adults.
However, Prof. Drosten himself limits the informative value of this study. Because the decisive studies - school and household contact studies - cannot be done at the moment because these situations - school and household - currently do not exist or are falsified.
Deaths among children are now also reported from abroad.
Dr. However, Schwerk emphasizes that it is not clear from previous publications whether these children died from this SARS-CoV-2 infection or from another cause and that they also had the virus in them.
The expert can be reassured: the number of known deaths among children has been negligible compared to the published number of infected children. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.