Secondary household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among children and adolescents: Clinical and epidemiological aspects

Pediatr Pulmonol. 2022 Jan;57(1):162-175. doi: 10.1002/ppul.25711. Epub 2021 Oct 13.


Objective: To evaluate the secondary attack rate (SAR) in children and adolescents, contacts of essential activities workers who were infected by SARS-CoV-2; and to describe associated clinical and epidemiological data.

Methods: A cross-sectional study conducted in children and adolescents aged 5 to 19 years of age, that were household contacts of parents and other relatives who were infected by SARS-CoV-2 in the city of Goiânia, Central Brazil, from March to October 2020. Sociodemographic and clinical data were collected from all participants. Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs were collected and tested for SARS-CoV-2 RNA using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection and SAR were analyzed using Poisson regression.

Results: A total of 267 children and adolescents were investigated. The prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA by the real-time RT-PCR test and/or the presence of COVID-19 associated symptoms (anosmia/ageusia and flu syndrome) was 25.1% (95.0% Confidence Interval [95.0% CI] = 20.3-30.6). More than half (55.1%) of the participants had sygns and symptoms. The most prevalent signs and symptoms in positive individuals were nasal congestion (62.7%), headache (55.2%), cough (50.8%), myalgia (47.8%), runny nose (47.8%), and anosmia (47.8%). The Poisson model showed that the following signs or symptoms were associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection: fever, nasal congestion, decreased appetite, nausea, anosmia, and ageusia. Families that had more than one infected adult, in addition to the index case, presented greater transmissibility to children and adolescents.

Conclusions: Our results contribute to the hypothesis that children and adolescents are not important sources of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the home environment during a period of social distancing and school closure; even though they are susceptible to infection in the household (around ¼ of our study population).

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; adolescents; children; epidemiology; household infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Home Environment
  • Humans
  • RNA, Viral
  • SARS-CoV-2*


  • RNA, Viral