Back to school? Australian study suggests kids aren’t corona spreaders

“I hope that it provides strong reassurance of the safety of the return to school,” said Prof. Kristine Macartney.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

A new study conducted in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, suggests that in contrast to other respiratory illnesses like influenza and the common cold, children are not the primary spreaders of coronavirus in schools or in the community.

Between March 5 and April 3, Australia’s National Centre for Immunisation Research (NCIRS) conducted a study of 15 schools (10 high schools and 5 primary schools) with a total of 18 COVID-19 cases (9 students and 9 staff).

Within the schools, 735 students and 128 staff were identified as close contacts of the infected. Of those 863 close contacts, only two students were identified as secondary cases of infection.

The report concluded that one secondary case was most likely to have been infected following close contact with two student cases. The other secondary case was presumed to have been infected by a teacher.

“We didn’t see any transmission from students to teachers or really much transmission overall,” NCIRS director Prof. Kristine Macartney told reporters Sunday.

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“Taken together with other lines of evidence about the low rates of infection in children, this is leading us to conclude that there’s really a very low rate of spread between children and certainly from children to adults,” she said.

Macartney said, “We’re hoping to continue this work, but I hope that it provides strong reassurance of the safety of the return to school.”

Former senior research fellow at the Australian Council for Educational Research Dr. Catherine Scott told Australia’s The New Daily that the study was “very, very small, and I understand one school had closed so there was a fairly small percentage of students actually there to test – it’s highly suspicious to me.”

“Is this the work of some politician somewhere who doesn’t like their own kids and don’t want them at home? I don’t know,” she said.

The NCIRS report is only the most recent example of studies from other countries, including China, Iceland, the Netherlands, all consistently showing children have very low rates of infection and only get symptoms of the disease.

Researchers in France recently concluded that an infected 9-year-old boy did not pass coronavirus on to anyone despite mingling with 172 people at three different ski schools in eastern France.

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But not all health officials are so sure. Adding to the developing uncertainty about children and coronavirus, the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) issued an urgent alert Sunday.

The message, shared by the Paediatric Intensive Care Society, said, “Over the last three weeks there has been an apparent rise in the number of children of all ages presenting with a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care across London and also in other regions of the UK.”

Although the NHS reports that the condition is consistent with severe COVID-19 in children, some of the patients are testing negative for the virus.

“There is a growing concern that a [COVID-19] related inflammatory syndrome is emerging in children in the UK, or that there may be another, as yet unidentified, infectious pathogen associated with these cases,” the alert said.

An 11-year-old Israeli girl from Tiberias was placed on a ventilator Sunday at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. She is currently the youngest Israeli in serious condition with the virus.

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