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(WHO) Covid-19: To what extent are children affected and transmit the virus?

"Out of all the cases reported by countries, children and adolescents under the age of 18 represent only about 8 % of cases in 2020, while they constitute nearly 30 % of the global population," notes WHO in its latest epidemiological bulletin.

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NEW YORK, Jan. 20, 2021 / PRN Africa / - “Of all the cases reported by countries, children and adolescents under the age of 18 only represent around 8 % of cases in 2020, whereas they constitute nearly 30 % of the world population ”, notes the UN agency in its latest epidemiological bulletin.

According to the WHO, studies suggest that children under 10 are less susceptible and less infectious than older ones. "Mild infections may have been underreported," said the WHO, however, adding that "children and adolescents are more likely to have a mild or asymptomatic infection."

Under these conditions, they are much less likely than adults to be hospitalized or have a fatal outcome. Only 0.2% of deaths have been reported in people under the age of 20.

No links between the reopening of schools and peaks of the virus

However, the role of children in the pandemic is becoming clearer. On this subject, the WHO recalls a study carried out in Norway from August to November 2020. It revealed "a very low transmission from child to child and from child to adult in primary schools (children aged 5 to 13). years) with infection prevention and control measures in place ”.

Viral load studies suggest that children with symptoms carry as many viruses in their nose, mouth and throat as adults, but for shorter periods with a spike in respiratory viral load soon after. onset of symptoms, followed by rapid decline.

In contrast, adolescents aged 16 to 18 transmit the virus as often as adults and more easily than younger children. According to the WHO, more outbreaks have been reported in secondary schools than in primary schools.

If a distinction is made between children under 12 and older children, in whom the virus circulates a lot, the WHO report does not tend to show any "explosion of contagion at school". Indeed, several studies have shown that the reopening of schools was not associated with "a significant increase in community transmission or spikes".

Apart from a rare case in Israel, schools are not "places of super propagation"

However, the WHO estimates that the return to school of many children in mid-August, after periods of low community transmission in many countries, appears to have contributed to the increases seen in October.

At the same time, a UK government report found that when schools reopened in England and Wales during the summer, infection rates among pupils did not increase relative to the population rate. existing.

A study in South Korea also showed that there was no increase in Covid-19 cases in the two months after resuming classes in May. According to the WHO, in most cases in children, “the infection was acquired from family members, not at school”.

More broadly, the UN agency notes that “schools have not been identified as places of super propagation, except in a few examples where mitigation measures have not been well applied”. This is the case in a high school in Israel where an epidemic occurred last May. The explanation given by the Israeli health authorities is that "adolescents were sitting in air-conditioned rooms with more than 30 classmates and without wearing masks." Eventually, more than 150 students and 25 staff were infected.

Community transmission is reflected in the school environment

The WHO has therefore concluded that there is "little evidence to suggest that school personnel are more at risk of infection while in school than the general adult population".

In fact, national surveillance data in the UK has shown that school staff are less at risk of infection in schools than the general adult population. Another study, involving 57,000 caregivers in nurseries in the United States, also showed that there was no increased risk of infection for caregivers.

Generally speaking, community transmission is reflected in the school environment. So when community transmission is low and appropriate mitigation measures are applied, children and schools are unlikely to be primarily responsible for the transmission of Covid-19. Conversely, when community transmission is widespread or when the number of new cases increases, as we have seen in particular in the last three months.

For the UN agency, the evidence of school closures to reduce community transmission is “mixed”. Now the arrival of new, more transmissible variants of SARS-CoV-2 requires "further analysis" by age to measure whether and how the new variants impact children differently. "If it turns out that children are more affected, social public health measures may need to be adapted," notes the WHO.

Stricter control measures in secondary and high schools

In the meantime, schools should adopt an epidemic prevention and management policy, including control measures to protect staff and people at high risk. This includes the need for adequate ventilation, hygienic practices, the use of masks (persons 12 years of age and over must wear a mask).

Stricter infection control measures may be needed for high schools and high schools. According to the WHO, teachers and school staff must remain vigilant to avoid exposure outside of school, where they are more likely to be infected.

In all cases, the decision to close, partially close or reopen schools should be guided by a risk-based approach. And closure should be implemented as a "last resort, be temporary and only occur locally in areas where transmission is intense." "The period during which schools are physically closed must be used to put in place measures to prevent and respond to transmission when schools reopen," insists the UN agency.

To better understand the contagiousness of children, research is underway on the factors that can put children and adolescents at risk, on the long-term effects on the health of those who have been infected and, most importantly, on the impact of new variants of SARS-CoV-2.

SOURCE UN News Center

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