Household Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Transmission and Children: A Network Prospective Study

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Sep 15;73(6):e1261-e1269. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciab228.


Background: The role of children in household transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) remains unclear. We describe the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of children with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Catalonia, Spain, and investigate the household transmission dynamics.

Methods: A prospective, observational, multicenter study was performed during summer and school periods (1 July 2020-31 October 2020) to analyze epidemiological and clinical features and viral household transmission dynamics in COVID-19 patients aged <16 years. A pediatric index case was established when a child was the first individual infected. Secondary cases were defined when another household member tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 before the child. The secondary attack rate (SAR) was calculated, and logistic regression was used to assess associations between transmission risk factors and SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Results: The study included 1040 COVID-19 patients. Almost half (47.2%) were asymptomatic, 10.8% had comorbidities, and 2.6% required hospitalization. No deaths were reported. Viral transmission was common among household members (62.3%). More than 70% (756/1040) of pediatric cases were secondary to an adult, whereas 7.7% (80/1040) were index cases. The SAR was significantly lower in households with COVID-19 pediatric index cases during the school period relative to summer (P = .02) and compared to adults (P = .006). No individual or environmental risk factors associated with the SAR.

Conclusions: Children are unlikely to cause household COVID-19 clusters or be major drivers of the pandemic, even if attending school. Interventions aimed at children are expected to have a small impact on reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; child; coronavirus; household; transmission.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Family Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Prospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2*