Background: Child with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection typically have mild symptoms that do not require medical attention, leaving a gap in our understanding of the spectrum of SARS-CoV-2-related illnesses that the viruses causes in children.
Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of children and adolescents (aged <21 years) with a SARS-CoV-2-infected close contact. We collected nasopharyngeal or nasal swabs at enrollment and tested for SARS-CoV-2 using a real-time polymerase chain reaction assay.
Results: Of 382 children, 293 (77%) were SARS-CoV-2-infected. SARS-CoV-2-infected children were more likely to be Hispanic (P < .0001), less likely to have asthma (P = .005), and more likely to have an infected sibling contact (P = .001) than uninfected children. Children aged 6-13 years were frequently asymptomatic (39%) and had respiratory symptoms less often than younger children (29% vs 48%; P = .01) or adolescents (29% vs 60%; P < .001). Compared with children aged 6-13 years, adolescents more frequently reported influenza-like (61% vs 39%; P < .001) , and gastrointestinal (27% vs 9%; P = .002), and sensory symptoms (42% vs 9%; P < .0001) and had more prolonged illnesses (median [interquartile range] duration: 7 [4-12] vs 4 [3-8] days; P = 0.01). Despite the age-related variability in symptoms, wWe found no difference in nasopharyngeal viral load by age or between symptomatic and asymptomatic children.
Conclusions: Hispanic ethnicity and an infected sibling close contact are associated with increased SARS-CoV-2 infection risk among children, while asthma is associated with decreased risk. Age-related differences in clinical manifestations of SARS-CoV-2 infection must be considered when evaluating children for coronavirus disease 2019 and in developing screening strategies for schools and childcare settings.
Keywords: COVID-19; asymptomatic; community; pediatric; viral load.
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