The new coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, has infected close to 90,000 people and caused more than 3,000 deaths so far. Parents are understandably concerned. But it is important to keep in mind that comparatively few children have tested positive for the virus, and mortality in children are very rare.
The number of reported COVID-19 cases in children remains low, of over 44,000 confirmed cases from China, only 416, less than 1 per cent, were aged nine years or younger. Till now, no deaths were reported in this age group.
It is still not clear whether the low numbers of child infections recorded is due to:
- Low numbers of children exposed to this virus
- Low numbers of children being infected, or
- Low numbers of infected children who developed symptoms severe enough to present for care
However, if children are infected (and yet have milder symptoms), they may play a critical role in the spread of COVID-19. Children are mobile, shed large volume of the virus, assemble in groups and are at lower risk of severe disease, so often maintain their daily activities. Preventing school-age children from getting infected with influenza is a productive community prevention strategy.