Children can carry coronavirus in their noses and throats for weeks even if they don’t show any symptoms, South Korean researchers said last week.
“In this case series study, in apparent infections in children may have been associated with silent COVID-19 transmission in the community,” the researchers wrote in a new study.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics included data on 91 asymptomatic, presymptomatic and symptomatic children diagnosed with Covid-19 between February 18 and March 31 at 22 centers throughout South Korea.
Among those patients, 20 of them did not show any obvious symptoms and remained asymptomatic throughout the study.
Another 18 children were presymptomatic, meaning they didn’t look or feel sick at the time but eventually got symptoms later.
In total, more than half of the children, 71 kids did show symptoms, which included fever, cough, diarrhea, abdominal pain and loss of smell or taste, among other symptoms. The duration of the symptoms appeared to vary, ranging from one to 36 days.
“This suggests that even mild and moderately affected children remain symptomatic for long periods of time,” DeBiasi and Delaney wrote in the editorial.
The data showed that only 8.5% of those patients with symptoms were diagnosed with Covid-19 at the time their symptoms began. Most(66%) of the patients with symptoms had symptoms that were not recognized before they were diagnosed, and 25.4% developed symptoms after they were diagnosed.
“This highlights the concept that infected children may be more likely to go unnoticed either with or without symptoms and continue on with their usual activities, which may contribute to viral circulation within their community,” DeBiasi and Delaney wrote.
The study found genetic material from the virus was detectable in the children for a mean of 17.6 days overall. Even in the children who had no symptoms, the virus was detectable for 14 days on average. It’s also possible that the virus remained in the children even longer, the study said, because the date of initial infection wasn’t identified.