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High levels of asymptomatic infection in children

A teacher and students wearing protective masks in a classroom in the UK

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Clinical data suggest that although children and young adults tend to develop milder symptoms of COVID-19, they can be silent spreaders of the disease. This is concerning information at a time when authorities are discussing the idea of reopening schools as the pandemic continues. A study conducted by a team at Harvard University in the USA found much higher levels of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the airways (nose and throat) of individuals aged 22 and younger than in hospitalized adults with the disease (The Journal of Pediatrics, August 20). “I was surprised by the high levels of virus we found in children of all ages, especially in the first two days of infection,” said physician Lael Yonker, the lead author of the study, in a press statement. “The viral loads of hospitalized patients are significantly lower than a ‘healthy child’ who is walking around with a high SARS-CoV-2 viral load.” The study looked at data from 192 children and young adults, of which 49 tested positive for the novel coronavirus but had mild or no symptoms of COVID-19. An additional 18 developed late-onset health problems associated with the disease.