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Kids under age 5 may carry a much higher coronavirus viral load than older children and adults: study

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Kids under age 5 may carry a much higher coronavirus viral load than older children and adults: study

Wash those hands! The viral load in small children’s noses could be quite high. A small study is raising questions about whether young children could be coronavirus super spreaders, even as the country deliberates how to reopen schools in the coming weeks.

One of the few silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic so far has been that the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 17 million people worldwide has largely spared kids. Children are infected at lower rates , and they tend to have milder symptoms — although a rising number have been exhibiting a mysterious multisystem inflammatory syndrome that appears to be related to their body’s immune response to COVID-19 exposure.

But how contagious are kids? And could reopening schools lead to more community outbreaks if children (and teachers) become exposed to COVID-19 in classrooms, and then spread the virus to their families? A small Chicago study published in JAMA Pediatrics this week is renewing such questions, as it suggests that small children infected with COVID-19 carry at least as much of the virus as adults do — if not much, much more.

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Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, analyzed 145 nasal swabs from patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 within a week of showing symptoms. Her team tested for the genetic pieces of the virus (RNA) in the samples. And they found that older children and adults had similar amounts of the viral genetic material, which can be extrapolated to measure how much live virus they carried. (Live viral cultures are used in research settings, not clinical settings like […]

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