A startling but very encouraging finding. Children hardly ever pass on Covid-19 to their parents or to other adults, British experts have concluded.17 June 2020
A top infectious diseases consultant tells correspondent.world: In deciding whether to send their children back to school, parents need to balance all the different risks their children may face. Covid-19 is only one of them.
By Paul Martin.
Parents need to balance the serious risks of keeping their children away from school against the far smaller risk of their children contracting Covid-19 and passing it on to others in their family, a leading child infectious diseases doctor has told correspondent.world.
“We have found that Covid-19 is different to other infectious diseases, such as influenza or pneumococcal disease, where children can be carriers who pass it on to their families,” said Dr Karyn Moshal, a senior Paediatric Infectious Diseases Consultant at the world-renowned Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in central London. ‘”It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s really good news.”
Experience in the UK backs up international data showing that children are unlikely to pass Covid-19 to their parents or to other adults, Dr Moshal added.
Dr Moshal said the number of children being admitted with Covid-19 at the hospital had itself been low, suggesting that children are less prone to Covid-19 than adults. “There is mounting worldwide data confirming this,” she said.
One of the studies she cited was carried out in a coronavirus epicentre in Israel. In crowded households where a majority of adults had the disease, only one in ten children under 5 years old were infected, and fewer than one in three children over 5 had it. “This study indicates that the virus passes from adults to children and not from children to adults, as a rule.”
The risks for parents sending their children to school after the lockdown would come almost exclusively from any contact between the parents themselves, or between parents and the school staff.
Dr Moshal declined to comment directly on the government’s rules in the school environment, nor on whether any social distancing between children was necessary.
“The risk to school staff will be no greater than the risks in any other work environment where adults social-distance from each other,” Dr Moshal said.
She pointed out that the physical and mental health risks to children in prolonged periods of absence from school were very considerable and should be weighed up against any risk involved in returning to school.
“We as paediatricians are very concerned about children missing out on the benefits of the school community environment and the safety, structure and routine that schools provide, in addition to education. Additionally, by not having children at school many families find themselves under greater strain and that has a serious knock-on effect on children’s wellbeing.
“However, most cases we have seen of Covid-19 in children are very mild.”
Dr Moshal, 55, originally from South Africa, has lived in the UK for thirty years. She has “no qualms at all” about sending her 9-year-old daughter back to school this month.
“We are very concerned that in the current atmosphere many parents, when their children are ill, delay bringing them to hospitals or their GPs, for fear of contracting Covid-19. This really does put children’s lives at risk. Children have presented to hospital with severe, or even life-threatening disease, which, if seen earlier, could have been treated more rapidly with less distress to parents and families,” Dr Moshal added.
HER VIEWS WERE BACKED UP BY ANOTHER CONSULTANT PAEDIATRICIAN AT THE SAME CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL.
A consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Dr Lee Hudson, warns (in a here-slightly-abbreviated first-person piece in the Telegraph) that children’s mental health is at risk in lockdown.
As a paediatrician who works and researches child health, my concern for young people lies not with the effects of the Coronavirus itself, but rather the far bigger impact on young people’s people’s mental health and future prospects.
Even before Covid-19, we knew that one in eight children had a mental health disorder and, for young women aged 17-19, rates were as high as a quarter, half of whom have self-harmed. Over the past few weeks, we have seen children and young people presenting in crisis because of the effects of lockdown on their mental health. My worry is for those who are suffering in silence.
Given that presentations across the board in paediatric services have plummeted, it’s likely that a lot of children are struggling and aren’t getting help. We also therefore don’t know the extent of the problems they are facing.
My colleagues and I in child health are anticipating a deluge of children to present with myriad health problems – but, in particular, a surge in children needing mental health services. It is really important then that these services are ready to meet this demand.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when you consider that the provision was frequently inadequate before Covid. Add to that the significant concern about the safety of children (some of whom have not been seen for many months), we have a lot of important work ahead of us.
The NHS already had a 10-year plan which placed mental health as a big priority. One part of this was to increase the chance to catch mental health problems at school. The fact that most children remain out of school poses a huge problem.
When we look back on Covid-19, we will see that children and young people have been expected to make huge sacrifices. Many will carry the effects on their health and wellbeing with them throughout their lives.
Decisions have been made for them in the national interest. It is now in the national interest, and also the nation’s responsibility, to make them a priority, to mitigate the effects of lockdown and support them in every way we can.
Dr Hudson is consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital and associate professor at the UCL Institute of Child Health