Why does coronavirus affect children and adults differently? | The Stream

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When it comes to the flu and other viral infections, children are high risk. Not only do they get sick, they can amplify the spread of viruses to family and community. But, globally, one of the biggest mysteries of the coronavirus pandemic has been childrens’ ability to stave off the worst symptoms, remain asymptomatic or even be immune to the virus.

Some of the earliest and best data has come out of China. A study of 2143 paediatric cases (731 lab-confirmed, with the rest suspected) showed more than 90 percent were either asymptomatic or had mild or moderate symptoms. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control found that, as of April 2020, a mere 1.7% of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country were in children under the age of 18, with only three paediatric deaths among the cases analysed. Data from Italy shows similar patterns.

What’s not known is if there is a long-term impact from exposure to coronavirus, even among those who did not show symptoms when infected. The World Health Organization says they do not yet see a clear answer from the data collected.

But while most children appear to handle COVID-19 well, in some rare cases the disease can spark a severe condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). It causes inflammation of the heart, lungs and other vital organs. In most situations children have recovered.

So as schools, camp and care facilities begin opening up around the world, what are the biggest medical concerns about the impact of coronavirus on children? We’ll discuss with a panel of experts.

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