Coronavirus: Adults spread COVID-19 to children more than the reverse, says expert

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Children may only be a small minority of confirmed COVID-19 cases, but they are not immune to the disease and can transmit it – and one expert says that while we still don’t know the exact role played by children, it is unlikely they have been central to the spread of the pandemic.

Children represent only around 2 percent of total confirmed cases. But because they tend to show few, if any, symptoms, cases in children are difficult to detect, meaning isolating them is more difficult.

In 10-30 percent of children’s cases, they are asymptomatically infected, John Williams, an expert in pediatric infectious disease at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told ABC.

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This means that in theory, children could have spread COVID-19 without showing symptoms. However, one expert says this is unlikely, and adult-to-children transmissions are in fact more common than the other way round.

Petter Brodin, a consultant pediatric immunologist and associate professor of immunology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said that children are not necessarily driving this pandemic, and that coronavirus is most often transmitted from adults to children, and not the other way around.

In Sweden, the government’s strategy of voluntary social distancing has been hotly debated around the world where most governments have preferred strict lockdowns and social distancing measures and have closed businesses and schools.

Read more: Coronavirus: Sweden to achieve partial ‘herd immunity’ in weeks

When asked if the fact that schools had been closed could’ve been the cause for higher adult to child transmission, Brodin points to the fact that Swedish children have still been in school as evidence that child to adult spread is less common.

“We know that children secrete the virus through their feces, or their stool, but that’s not the main route of transmission,” Brodin said.

Coronavirus is most commonly spread through droplets or through the air, and “we can speculate that even if an entire family is infected, the adults are more likely to spread the virus,” he said.

Experts don’t know why children are so disproportionately affected by coronavirus, because there isn’t enough known about the virus yet, but they suspect it may because of how children’s immune systems respond to the novel coronavirus. Children are susceptible to the flu, and there’s no definitive answer on why they don’t respond similarly to coronaviruses.

Governments have warned families to keep children away from grandparents to protect the elderly, a known high-risk group, as they feared that children could infect the more vulnerable group.

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