Background: Children with SARS-CoV-2 infection typically have mild symptoms that do not require medical attention, leaving a gap in our understanding of the spectrum of illnesses that the virus causes in children.
Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of children and adolescents (<21 years of age) 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 PCR assay.
Results: Of 382 children, 293 (77%) were SARS-CoV-2-infected. SARS-CoV-2-infected children were more likely to be Hispanic (p<0.0001), less likely to have asthma (p=0.005), and more likely to have an infected sibling contact (p=0.001) than uninfected children. Children ages 6-13 years were frequently asymptomatic (39%) and had respiratory symptoms less often than younger children (29% vs. 48%; p=0.01) or adolescents (29% vs. 60%; p<0.0001). Compared to children ages 6-13 years, adolescents more frequently reported influenza-like (61% vs. 39%; p<0.0001), gastrointestinal (27% vs. 9%; p=0.002), and sensory symptoms (42% vs. 9%; p<0.0001), and had more prolonged illnesses [median (IQR) duration: 7 (4, 12) vs. 4 (3, 8) days; p=0.01]. Despite the age-related variability in symptoms, we found no differences 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 the clinical manifestations of SARS-CoV-2 infection must be considered when evaluating children for COVID-19 and in developing screening strategies for schools and childcare settings.
Keywords: COVID-19; asymptomatic; community; pediatric; viral load.
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.