Babies And Toddlers Are Highly Contagious For Covid-19

parents playing children

Infants and toddlers (0-3 years) are less likely to bring SARS-CoV-2 into the home but are more likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 compared with older children.


new study by Public Health Ontario, published in JAMA Pediatrics finds that infants and toddlers (0-3 years) are less likely to bring SARS-CoV-2 into the home but are more likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 compared with older children (14-17 years). This study reinforces the urgent need to protect children and those they live with as they return in person to schools, and prevent further transmission in the home.

During the early stages of the pandemic, many public health officials claimed that children were not at risk from infection or transmitted the virus. With a total of 180,175 pediatric Covid-19 cases were reported from August 12 to 19 and children representing 22.4% of overall reported cases, this has clearly been proven wrong.

“I think they were biased by the fact that children were sequestered at home,”  Dr. Tina V. Hartert, a respiratory epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University told the New York Times, who was not involved in the new study. “They were recommended not even to play with neighbors, they didn’t go to school, they didn’t go to day care.”

The study looked at records of Covid-19 cases and positive coronavirus tests in Ontario from June 1 to Dec. 31, 2020. The researchers identified all positive tests associated with private households and then identified the “index case”, which was the first person to develop Covid-19 symptoms or test positive for the virus in each household. The study looked at 6,280 households in which the first person to catch the virus was under 18. Researchers then looked for secondary cases or others in the same home who got sick in the two weeks after the first child fell ill.

In most cases, they found, the chain of transmission stopped with the infected child, but in 27.3 percent of households, children transmitted the virus to at least one other resident. Children from 14 to 17 made up 38 percent of all the index cases and were most likely to bring it into the home. However, the odds of household transmission were roughly 40 percent higher when the infected child was 3 or younger than when they were between 14 and 17.

Some of these findings can be partially explained by behavioral factors, infants and toddlers cannot be isolated when sick, leading to more chances for transmission. Teenagers are also often spending time in close quarters, touching and even sharing drinks and food, creating more opportunities for them to contract the virus and bring it back to the home.

With children under 12 not yet vaccinated and highly vulnerable to infection, it is critical we ensure masks and physical distancing are used in schools. Good ventilation, testing, contract tracing, and wastewater surveillance are also important tools to protect children and their caregivers.


Read the full article on Forbes

Originally published on Forbes on August 24, 2021  

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.