Since the onset of the epidemic, children are not troubled by the virus and the observed forms are usually benign. Deaths occur in less than 1% of cases, European research confirms published in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. Of the 582 patients examined, positive for the virological test (RT-PCR), only four died, all over 10 years old, two of whom had pre-existing medical problems.
Returning to school initially worried parents and education unions, who feared the epidemic could start again, especially as children were less able to control barrier movements. In addition, it was not known what role they could play in the circulation and transmission of the virus. The fear is that they are important “silent” vectors, making them more likely to transmit the disease than adults, even if there are no symptoms. In reality, a study by pediatricians in Ile de France found that children are not very contagious. Another study by the Institut Pasteur, the results of which will be published on June 23, goes in the same direction.
What do we now scientifically know about the behavior of SARS-CoV-2 in children?
At the onset of the epidemic, it seemed certain that most of Covid-19 was carried and transmitted by children, even if they were not sick or symptomatic. This was the reason for the closure of the schools. Today we see afterwards that children are less “carriers” than adults.
According to a study conducted by the Institut Pasteur at primary schools in Crépy-en-Valois (Oise), where the coronavirus circulated en masse at the onset of the epidemic, transmission between young children is low. Of the 510 students in six primary schools who participated in the study, three were suspected cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in three different schools before the schools were closed for the February school holidays and before the confinement in Crépy-en- Valois. These cases did not result in secondary cases, either with other schoolchildren or with teaching staff, the study reports show. In addition, the infection rate is very high (61%) in parents of infected children, while it is only 6.9% in parents of non-infected children. “This suggests that in many cases, parents have been the source of their children’s infection,” said the Pasteur Institute.
Overall, the results of this study are similar to those of other studies abroad, suggesting that children aged 6 to 11 years become more infected in the family than in school. The main new information emerging from this study is that the infected children did not transmit the virus to other children, teachers or other school staff, but these results need to be confirmed in other studies given the low number of virus introductions in schools studied, “said Arnaud Fontanet, lead author of the study, head of the Department of Epidemiology of Emerging Diseases of the Pasteur Institute.
These reassuring results thus confirm another study conducted by Professor Robert Cohen, pediatrician in Créteil (Val-de-Marne) and vice president of the French Pediatric Association. According to this study, children (up to 15 years old) are very little infectious. In an interview with Parisien, on June 4, the pediatrician confirms: it is known with “certainty” that the children are not “super polluters”, on the contrary. “We now know that they are very small infections. At the beginning of the crisis, as with other respiratory viruses, it was believed that they played an important role in the spread of the epidemic. not the case.”
The French Pediatric Association is based on a study it conducted (from April 14 to May 12) with 600 children between 3 months and 18 years old in the Paris region. All were tested by PCR and by fingertip blood test (serological test). As a result, serological tests show that 10% of children in Ile-de-France, the most affected region, are infected with the coronavirus. In addition, 1.8% had a positive PCR test when detected during confinement. But, says Dr. Cohen, ‘we were really surprised to see that only 0.6% were contagious. “
Another argument from the pediatrician: fewer than one in ten clusters have a child as a starting point.
Finally a study conducted in Les Contamines-Montjoie and published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases she also came to this conclusion. She had studied the case of the 9-year-old child, who, although infected with Covid-19, had continued to visit three schools and a ski club before the health warning was given. The study concluded that none of the 172 people the child had come in contact with were infected with the virus, not even the two other children of his siblings. This suggests that “children may not be a major source of transmission of this new virus” and suggests “a different transmission dynamics in children.
Why are they less contagious? Several hypotheses are put forward:
One thing also seems self-evident: when danger is imminent, it is not primarily about schoolchildren. Studies all point in the same direction: Covid-19 doesn’t affect children much.
According to a European study, deaths related to Covid-19 in children are extremely rare and occur in less than 1% of cases. Experts from Britain, Austria and Spain have found that the disease in children remains predominantly mild. The results of the study are published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health at the end of June 2020.
According to a detailed analysis of hospital admissions and deaths from COVID-19 in Francepublished on April 21 by the Institut Pasteur, when 8.3% of people over the age of 80 affected by the virus have died, this figure drops to 0.001% in children under 20.
According to a Chinese study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) At the end of February 2020, among the more than 70,000 cases of coronavirus diagnosed in China, there are “only” 2% of children and adolescents under the age of 19. The researchers add that no child under 9 died. According to this large study, serious cases are mainly observed in the elderly and in comorbidities.
As of March 23, of the nearly 58,000 Italian cases, only 597 were children and adolescents under 18 (1%), the hospital admission rate for children was 11% (17.5% among those under 1 year) and 7% in those over 7 ). No child used intensive care (data from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità).