IU med school study tracks asymptomatic COVID-19 in child

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In April, IU Medical School students fanned out across Indianapolis in an attempt to conduct at large random testing of Marion County residents for the presence of the COVID-19 virus.

They got an unexpected answer.

“Our infection rate was 0.2% out of the population we studied so one person out of 512 ended up being positive,” said Dr. James Wood, Infectious Disease Specialist at Riley Hospital for Children.  “Our one positive was a child, he was under ten and he had no known risk factors.”

Dr. Wood said the IU study was unique in that it included children as well as adults and did not target patients who were already symptomatic for coronavirus.

“Kids can carry this infection without symptoms,” said Dr. Wood. “I think the message to parents is, continue to be cautious. I think the number of people with asymptomatic infection is not sky high so when I think we take a general look at the risk/benefit of kids going to school, getting on school buses, the benefit probably does outweigh the risk as long as the rates remain low.”

Dr. Wood said researchers would know like to investigate schools where positive cases have occurred to determine whether mitigation factors such as social distancing and mask-wearing can keep children safe.

“Kids don’t seem to be as severely affected as adults do,” said Dr. Wood. “I think what this tells us is we need to look further at antibodies because that tells us about past infections in kids. We need to look at what are infection rates at different schools based on how they are distancing or how they’re going to virtual learning.”

Approximately eight percent of the positive COVID-19 cases in Marion County are in residents younger than 18-years-old.

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