Sydney: Amid the outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus that has claimed over 5,000 lives globally, researchers have found that children rarely have severe symptoms when infected by COVID-19 and may even less likely to get the disease.
According to the review, published in the The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, like previous epidemic coronaviruses, COVID-19 seems to cause fewer symptoms and less severe disease in children compared to adults.
“There is some suggestion that children are just as likely as adults to become infected with the virus but are less likely to be unwell or develop severe symptoms,” said researchers Petra Zimmerman from University of Fribourg in Switzerland and Nigel Curtis from The University of Melbourne in Australia.
“However, the importance of children in transmitting the virus remains uncertain,” Zimmerman added.
The term COVID-19 is used for the clinical disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, according to the authors.
Over the past two decades, there have been three major disease outbreaks due to novel coronaviruses: SARS-CoV in 2002, MERS-CoV in 2012, and now SARS-CoV-2 in 2019.
Arising in the Chinese city of Wuhan, novel coronavirus spread rapidly around the world and has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 appears similar to that of the related SARS and MERS coronaviruses, but with a lower fatality rate.
The novel coronavirus can still cause serious and life-threatening infections – particularly in older people and those with pre-existing health conditions.
According to the researchers, children appear to have milder clinical symptoms than adults and to be at substantially lower risk of severe disease – which was also true in the SARS and MERS epidemics.
In Chinese data from February 2020, children and adolescents accounted for only two per cent of SARS-CoV-2 hospitalisations, the researchers wrote.
However, as children are less frequently symptomatic and have less severe symptoms they are less often tested, which might lead to an underestimate of the true numbers infected.
Also, children are less frequently exposed to the main sources of transmission.
Based on Chinese data, most infected children recover one to two weeks after the onset of symptoms, and no deaths had been reported by February 2020, the researchers added.
Most reported infections with SARS-CoV-2 have occurred in children with a documented household contact.
According to the researchers, children with COVID-19 may be more likely to develop gastrointestinal symptoms.
So far, the deadly COVID-19 has infected 141,467 people and killed over 5,436 individuals globally.