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Wichita pediatricians discuss study on spread of COVID-19 among children, teens

Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 6:03 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - More than half of the COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Sedgwick County are now in people younger than 40 and with the school year around the corner, a new study out of South Korea seeks to provide more details about the spread of COVID-19 among children and teens.

The research from South Korea shows that when it comes to teens, their rates of transmitting COVID-19 are similar to those of adults.

Ten (years old) up to young adults are very much in that super spread category, and even though they may have mild to no symptoms, they still can, very easily still infect those around them,” Ascencion Via Christi Pediatrician Dr. Amy Seery said.

Dr. Paul Teran, pediatrician hospitalist with KU School of Medicine Wichita said especially in middle schools and high schools, everyone should wear masks, in addition to frequent handwashing and social distancing.

The research published last week studied nearly 5,700 South Koreans with COVID-19, testing almost 60,000 close contacts of those patients in order to study the spread of the virus. While the report said teens’ virtual spread is equivalent to that of adults, the rate is lower for children aged nine and younger.

Dr. Seery and Dr. Teran said reports like the study out of South are helpful to determine next steps in efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 when it comes to decisions like when to start the upcoming school year.

“It’s the cumulation of all of this data, and seeing constant trends that help us in science say more accurately what we can expect and what we can predict,” Dr. Seery said.

Dr. Teran said the success of reopening Kansas schools “will be completely dependent on the amount of our community COVID-19 burden.”

Dr. Teran does say this is only one study and the findings need to be reproduced in other parts of the world. He also would like to see more data in smaller age groups for kids.

“I wish that the age groups weren’t just zero to nine and 10 to 19 because we know a one-year-old is very different than an eight-year-old and 10 years old is very different than a 19-year-old, physiologically, behaviorally. How they interact with others,” said Dr. Teran.

In the young age group (children and teens) the doctors said more research is needed.

“(They) will likely have a more mild illness. “We do not know what the long-term consequences will be of having had this virus exposed in your body. It’s really a wicked virus.”

Dr. Seery and Dr. Teran are part of the Kansas COVID Workgroup for Kids, made up of medical and mental health care providers. The group’s recommendations, released earlier this month, call for a longer winter break, full-time school nurses and masks for students 12 and older.

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