COVID in Kids (and Grownups)

Kids aren’t just tiny adults. Their bodies deal with COVID differently.
And what *does* COVID do to our bodies, anyway?

A teen in their natural habitat (online).
Image by Marco_Wolff from Pixabay.
Teens Are Rarely Hospitalized with COVID, but Cases Can Be Severe (NY Times, 06.04.2021)

“Adolescents were hospitalized with COVID three times as often as with flu, researchers reported. Nearly one-third wound up in I.C.U.s. . . . About 16,500 children have been hospitalized for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 322 have died, making it one of the leading causes of death among children.”

A child wearing a cloth mask. Image by Teja Klinar from Pixabay.
COVID-related syndrome in kids may be related to toxic shock (The Atlantic, 07.15.2021)

More than 4,000 kids in the US have developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) as a result of COVID infections. Turns out MIS-C is similar to toxic shock, which is caused by bacterial toxins that can overstimulate the immune system. Our little enemy, the COVID spike protein, might be able to do the same thing.

Abstract representation of blood vessels in the brain.
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.
Within 6 months after having COVID-19, 1 in 8 patients
are diagnosed with a neuropsychiatric condition
for the first time
(STAT News, 04.06.2021)

Most of those are diagnoses are for depression and/or anxiety, but a small percentage of patients experience bleeding in the brain, a stroke, or dementia.

The Delta Variant

This short, accessible animation explains how the UK mismanaged their response to the Delta variant, and how experiences there and in India can serve as a warning to the US.

Why and how does Delta spread so fast? It ramps up production very quickly – infected folks can be detected four days after exposure on average, compared to six days for folks infected with the original or “wild type” virus – and it makes a LOT of copies of itself. People infected with Delta have about 1000x the viral load of people infected with the wild type. As a result, Delta is outcompeting other variants.

A brief, useful overview on Delta from STAT News as of 07.23.21 lives here.

Vaccine and coronaviruses.
Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay.
Study Shows Flu Vaccine Lessens COVID-19 Symptoms in Children (University of Missouri School of Medicine, 02.04.21)

“‘[T]he growth of one virus can be inhibited by a previous viral infection,’ said Anjali Patwardhan, MD, professor of pediatric rheumatology and child health. ‘This phenomenon is called virus interference, and it can occur even when the first virus invader is an inactivated virus, such as the case with the flu vaccine.’”

The Alpha/B.1.1.7 Variant

The NY Times, 12.31.20: “The new variant seems to infect more people than earlier versions of the coronavirus, even when the environments are the same. . . . it is likely to catch on rapidly and become the predominant form in the United States by March.”

Medical News Today, 03.16.21: Aaaand it might slightly deadlier. Or not.

However, it most likely won’t reinfect you if you’ve already had COVID or have been vaccinated. So there’s that.

Classroom desks with masks.
Image by Louis Bafrance from Wikimedia Commons.
What Does a More Contagious Virus Mean for Schools?
(NY Times, 01.14.21)

Current research is shows that the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID is about 30 – 50% more transmissible than its predecessors. But young children are about half as likely to spread it as adults are. Kids ages 10 to 19 fall between littles and grown-ups in terms of their ability to transmit it.

What it means for schools: Mitigation measures will still work. We just have to adhere to them more strictly than ever.

SARS CoV-2 virus fusing to cell. Illustration by David Godsell/The Protein Database.
The body’s fight against 
COVID-19 explained using 
3D-printed models

(The Conversation, 01.26.21)

“Nathan Ahlgren, assistant professor of biology at Clark University, uses 3D-printed models to explain what proteins do in viruses, how they interact with human cells, how the vaccine delivers mRNA into the cell, and how antibodies protect us.” Includes video.

Image by Koen One Stop Map from Pixabay
Kids Under 15 Catch and Spread COVID Half as Much as Adults
(National Geographic, 12.10.20)

A 40,000-person study in Iceland “found that children under 15 were about half as likely as adults to be infected, and only half as likely as adults to transmit the virus to others. Almost all the coronavirus transmissions to children came from adults. . . . But even if children are generally less susceptible, when infection surges in a community, the risks in schools can dramatically increase.” (emphasis added)

Vitamin D caplets. Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.
Being Vitamin D-deficient
isn’t good, especially if you get COVID.
(The Guardian, 01.10.21)

It’s not clear if taking a lot of Vitamin D helps fight COVID. But there’s a lot of evidence that having too little of it keeps people from fighting it well. That’s especially important for folks with darker skin who live in northern climates, who often don’t get enough Vitamin D.

Stages for return-to-play for kids after COVID. Adapted from Elliott et al.
What Is COVID Doing
To Our Hearts?
(UCSF Magazine)

“The disease may damage cardiac muscle even in those who never displayed symptoms.” The damage can become apparent in either the short or the long term. For this reason, the American College of Cardiology recommends that all kids who’ve had COVID (except those under age 12 who had mild cases) be checked out by a doctor before doing any strenuous physical activity.)

Calendar. Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay.
Most Infected Folks Shed Virus
for About a Week

(NY Times, 11.29.20)

“People with Covid-19 . . . are most infectious about two days before symptoms begin and for five days afterward, according to a new analysis of previous research.”

Person spewing coronavirus. Image by badafest from Pixabay.
When Is a COVID Patient
Most Infectious?
(The Lancet Microbe, 11.09.20)

According to this scientific paper, it’s between Day 0 and Day 5 of infection.

Two kiddos in masks. Photo by Atoms on Unsplash.
The Children Never Had the Coronavirus. So Why Did They Have Antibodies?
(NY Times, 11.10.20)

A study suggests that certain colds may leave antibodies against the new coronavirus, perhaps explaining why children are more protected than adults.

Calendar. Image by 200 Degrees from Pixabay
Incubation Time
and Infectiousness

For folks who read scientific journal articles. Median incubation time; shorter incubation –> more severe disease; and just because you test positive doesn’t mean you’re infectious

Blood vessel. Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay
Clots, Strokes And Rashes.
Is COVID-19 A Disease
Of The Blood Vessels?
(WBUR, 11.05.20)

“The virus warps a critical piece of our vascular infrastructure: the single layer of cells lining the inside of every blood vessel, known as the endothelial cells or simply the endothelium.”

How antibodies neutralize COVID.
By Maher33 from Wikimedia Commons.
How an Ill-Fated Fishing
Voyage Helped Us Understand Covid-19 (NY Times, 10.20.20)

The finding is believed to be the first direct evidence that antibodies protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans, and it offers clues about what sort of concentrations might be needed to confer immunity. 

Child’s hand holding pencil.
Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni from Pixabay
Young Children Are Less Likely to Transmit Virus Than Teens
or Adults
 (Nature, 10.29.20)

The younger the kid, the less likely they are to transmit virus. That’s why schools – especially elementary schools – are less likely to be the source of outbreaks than other places where people gather.

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