TAMPA, Fla. - A new study out of the University of South Florida says that the number of children infected by COVID-19 is likely far greater than what's being reported.
The USF College of Public Health used model data from multiple sources in China and the U.S. They concluded that for every one child admitted to the intensive care unit, there are about 2,400 infections in other children.
Even if children are showing little to no symptoms of the virus, they can act as carriers who infect adults.
In more severe cases, which require kids to be hospitalized, the caregivers are put at additional risk. And it doesn’t end after they get back home.
“When they are discharged from the hospital, there are special circumstances, especially for children who are not toilet-trained. That’s something that a lot of people don’t think about,” explained Jason Salemi, associate professor of epidemiology at USF College of Public Health. “We need really good education for parents because if a child is not toilet-trained, I saw a study recently from The Lancet that said in fecal samples, the virus can last 30 days, which is longer than it does in respiratory samples.”
Salemi explained that the simple act of changing a diaper, if not done carefully, could put entire families at risk of catching the virus. Family spread is especially a concern for multi-generational families, where more vulnerable grandparents could be helping care for kids.
Kids are just as important to controlling the spread as adults, so even though hygiene and social distancing are helping to flatten the curve, Salemi says it’s too early to think about sending kids back to school.
“I think there’s still a lot of information we don’t know,” he explained. “I would not send kids back to school right now. I think that’s a mistake. Based on what we know right now and the mitigation efforts ongoing, I do not think sending children back to school is wise.”
In a worst-case scenario, the research predicted 30 million children could be infected, and of those, 13,000 could become critically ill.
“If we do what we need to do, that number drops down drastically,” Salemi added. “We’re looking at maybe 100 would become critically ill.”
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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