More than one-third of children with COVID-19 have no symptoms, study finds

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In a new study, researchers found that more than one-third of kids who have COVID-19 are asymptomatic.

The finding suggests youngsters diagnosed with the disease may represent just a fraction of those infected.

The concern from a public health perspective is that there is probably a lot of COVID-19 circulating in the community that people don’t even realize.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Alberta

In the study, the team analyzed results for 2,463 children who were tested during the first wave of the pandemic—March to September—for COVID-19 infection.

All told, 1,987 children had a positive test result for COVID-19 and 476 had a negative result. Of children who tested positive, 714—35.9%—reported being asymptomatic.

Because of the asymptomatic nature of the disease in up to one-third of children, the team said the province was right to close schools for a longer period over Christmas.

The researchers also found that although cough, runny nose and sore throat were three of the most common symptoms among children with COVID-19 infection—showing up in 25%, 19% and 16% of cases respectively—they were actually slightly more common among those with negative COVID-19 test results, and therefore not predictive of a positive test.

The team had a similar paper coming out that shows sore throats and runny noses aren’t reliable signs of COVID-19 in adults either, although the vast majority of adults (84%) do show symptoms.

They say that if people have any symptoms at all, they should stay home and get tested, while even those who feel well should still be doing everything they can to stay safe—wearing a protective mask, frequent hand-washing, keeping distance, and avoiding meeting indoors.

One author of the study is Finlay McAlister, a professor of medicine in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

The study is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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