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Coronavirus USA: can young children test positive for Covid-19?

Studies have shown that while the vast majority of children show no or very mild symptoms after contracting Covid-19, infants are the highest risk group.

Coronavirus USA: can young children test positive for Covid-19?
Paul BirisGetty Images

Following reports of 85 newborn babies in Texas being diagnosed with Covid-19 health experts are urging people to take all necessary precautions to curb the spread of the disease and protect the most vulnerable members of global society.

The cases were all recorded in Nueces County, Texas, as the US struggles to contain a recent spike in cases following the easing of lockdown restrictions in many states.

"We currently have 85 babies under the age of one year in Nueces County that have all tested positive for Covid-19," said Annette Rodriguez, director of public health for Corpus Christi Nueces County told CNN

Infants at higest risk of severe complications

While the coronavirus disease that causes Covid-19 presents much milder symptoms in most age groups under 18, experts have warned that infants are more susceptible to Covid-19 due to their less developed immune systems.

Research carried out by the Chinese CDC found that just over 10 percent of infants suffered severe infections from COVID-19, compared to 7 percent of 1- to 5-year-olds, 4 percent of 6- to 10-year-olds, 4 percent of 11- to 15-year-olds and 3 percent of older teenagers.

The US CDC also reported similar findings: in a study of 95 infants who had contracted Covid-19, 62 percent were hospitalized, compared to 14 percent, at most, among 1- to 17-year-olds. 

"99 percent" of child cases show no symptoms

The Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona carried out a study of 724 children who lived with a parent diagnosed with coronavirus. The research found that 17.5 percent of children living with a parent with Covid-19 have also contracted the virus, a very similar figure to that found in adults who have been in contact with an infected partner (18.9 percent).

The SJD study also stated that “over 99% of minors showed no symptoms, or if they did, they were insignificant.

Although mortality among children remains low there have tragically been some instances of newborns losing their lives to the virus. A 13-day old baby with no underlying symptoms was reported by the BBC to have died at a hospital in Sheffield in the UK on 18 June. “Tests have confirmed that the child had Covid-19, but it isn't yet clear if it was a contributing factor,” a hospital spokesperson said.

Other instances of infant fatalities linked to Covid-19 have also been reported in the US, South Africa and Indonesia. In many cases, those children who lost their lives had other health problems or were born prematurely.

UNICEF has also noted that while child mortality rates linked directly to the novel coronavirus remain “very limited,” the real danger for children across the world during the pandemic lies in indirect effects such as loss of income, strained healthcare systems and reduced access to vaccinations.