*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on ScienceDaily.
A commentary published in the journal Pediatrics, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, concludes that children infrequently transmit Covid-19 to each other or to adults and that many schools, provided they follow appropriate social distancing guidelines and take into account rates of transmission in their community, can and should reopen in the fall.
The authors, Benjamin Lee, M.D. and William V. Raszka, Jr., M.D., are both pediatric infectious disease specialists on the faculty of the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. Dr. Raszka is an associate editor of Pediatrics.
The authors of the commentary, titled “COVID-19 Transmission and Children: The Child Is Not to Blame,” base their conclusions on a new study published in the current issue of Pediatrics, “COVID-19 in Children and the Dynamics of Infection in Families,” and four other recent studies that examine Covid-19 transmission by and among children.
In the new Pediatrics study, Klara M. Posfay-Barbe, M.D., a faculty member at the University of Geneva’s medical school, and her colleagues studied the households of 39 Swiss children infected with Covid-19. Contact tracing revealed that in only three (8%) was a child the suspected index case, with symptom onset preceding illness in adult household contacts.
“The data are striking,” said Dr. Raszka. “The key takeaway is that children are not driving the pandemic. After six months, we have a wealth of accumulating data showing that children are less likely to become infected and seem less infectious; it is congregating adults who aren’t following safety protocols who are responsible for driving the upward curve.”
Additional support for the notion that children are not significant vectors of the disease comes from mathematical modeling, the authors say. Models show that community-wide social distancing and widespread adoption of facial cloth coverings are far better strategies for curtailing disease spread and that closing schools adds little. The fact that schools have reopened in many Western European countries and in Japan without seeing a rise in community transmissions bears out the accuracy of the modeling.
Reopening schools in a safe manner this fall is important for the healthy development of children, the authors say. “By doing so, we could minimize the potentially profound adverse social, developmental, and health costs that our children will continue to suffer until an effective treatment or vaccine can be developed and distributed, or failing that, until we reach herd immunity,” the paper concludes.