Early research suggests young children are largely untouched by the contagious coronavirus, according to a study published Jan. 30 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers analyzed 425 of the first people in Wuhan infected by 2019-nCoV. Data revealed that none of the patients were younger than age 15, and 59 was the median patient age.
As the outbreak evolves, younger children have been infected, Time reports. However, researchers still believe the early patient characteristics provide clues about who the virus is, or isn’t, infecting.
Three reasons kids are less likely to get sick from coronavirus:
1. Children’s cells may be less hospitable to the virus, making it challenging for 2019-nCoV to replicate and spread to others, Mark Denison, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told Time. The coronavirus SARS was “dramatically less common” among children than adults during the 2003 outbreak, according to Dr. Denison. Evolutionarily, humans are designed to be exposed to sickness as kids to build a broad-based immunity, Dr. Denison said.
Kids may also show milder symptoms and be less likely to seek care, study authors wrote.
2. Children’s environments may also boost immunity, Sharon Nachman, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stony Brook (N.Y.) Children’s Hospital, told Time.
“They’re in school and daycare; they’re in a milieu of infectious diseases,” Dr. Nachman said. “Maybe there’s some immunity from coronaviruses that [they develop, but] doesn’t last lifelong.”
3. Kids are often just healthier than adults, Dr. Nachman told Time. Patients without underlying conditions often fare better when sickened, she said. Children could also be more up-to-date on immunizations, warding off secondary infections that can come along with an illness.
Dr. Denison cautioned that these are just theories, concluding that children can still get infected and transmit coronavirus.
As of 2 p.m., Jan. 31, there are 9,925 confirmed coronavirus cases and 213 related deaths.
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