Is it more infectious? Is it spreading to schools? This is what we know about the Delta variant and children


by Margie Danchin, Archana Koirala, Fiona Russell and Philip Britton,

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19) isolated from a patient in the US. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the laboratory. The tips on the outer edge of the virus particles give the name to the coronaviruses, resembling a crown. Credit: NIAID-RML

The Delta variant is growing worldwide and at the World Health Organization warns it will quickly become the world’s dominant strain of COVID-19.

Delta is more infectious than the Alpha i variant preliminary data to suggest and adolescents are more likely to become infected with this variant and transmit it.

Is true? And with Sydney school students set to start quarter 3 remotely, what is the best way to handle it outbreaks?

Let’s take a look at the tests.

Delta in children and young people

In the United Kingdom, where there has been the Delta variant predominant since May, infections increase more rapidly between Young people aged 17 to 29, who are mostly unvaccinated. Infections also increase in younger age groups, but at a slower rate.

In general, increased transmission between boys and girls in part it may be due to Delta. But also, in countries like the UK, these age groups are the most susceptible to infection because the older groups have been vaccinated to a large extent.

Although we do not yet have data on the severity of the disease in children specifically associated with the Delta variant, we do know that with COVID in general, children are much less likely to feel very ill.

An investigation by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has been found children eliminate the virus faster than adults, which may help explain this.

How does Delta affect transmission in schools?

In 2020, face-to-face learning did not contribute significantly community transmission in Victoria. Similarly, during the first wave in New South Wales, transmission rates they were low in educational settings. Children’s worries can bring infections home to vulnerable family members they were not compatible for the tests.

However, the situation seems a little different now with the emergence of new variants and varying levels of vaccine coverage in different countries.

There seems to be more transmission in schools. A la week ending June 27th there were outbreaks in 11 nursery schools, 78 primary schools and 112 and 18 special needs schools in the UK.

Although outbreaks in schools are on the rise, the vast majority of transmissions it still occurs in households.

In 2021, in Australia, there have been very few school infections with Delta. In Western Australia, where schools have remained open, an infectious case attended three schools but this did not cause any school outbreak.

During the current NSW outbreak, there have been several schools and early childhood education centers with cases of COVID-19, and we have seen an outbreak in one .

While Australian schools have been largely saved, transmission rates have been higher than we have seen with other variants. Almost all family contacts in the cases are becoming infected.

In the recent Melbourne Primary School Outbreak, our research yet to be published, it was shown that 100% of the family contacts of infected children in school tested positive.

Fortunately, testing, tracking, and isolation were very effective in containing the file , even with the Delta variant.

But these recent school outbreaks highlight why vaccination of adults of all ages, especially parents and teachers, is so important.

Should we vaccinate children?

There are benefits to vaccinating children, especially teens. These include direct protection against the disease, but also reduce transmission to vulnerable adults and allow continued school attendance.

Risks and benefits must be carefully calculated in a low transmission environment such as Australia. In terms of risks, emerging data suggest mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna are associated with a very low risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart lining) in adolescents and young adults, especially males. While most cases are mild, it can be a serious condition and is being closely monitored.

The United States, Canada and some European countries are already vaccinating children over the age of 12. Currently, the Australian drug regulator is weighing this.

For now, we should continue to vaccinate adults in priority groups. We have a long way to go to vaccinate the most vulnerable first and we are still limited by the supply of vaccines.

As we face the benefits and risks for teens, it’s also worth asking them if they want to get vaccinated and why. Many have been negatively impacted by the pandemic and are desperate to get on with their lives.

What should parents consider?

With the Delta variant, there is now headache, sore throat and runny nose the most common symptoms among unvaccinated people.

These symptoms have fever and eclipsed cough, the most common symptoms before the pandemic.

Therefore, it is imperative that parents continue to test their children if they feel unwell, even if the symptoms seem more like the common cold.

Where to?

As adults become more widely vaccinated and our borders open, school outbreaks are likely to continue. Even in places like Israel, where a high proportion of the population has received two doses, school outbreaks have occurred recently.

Australia needs a clear plan that explains the best way to keep schools open, while preventing transmission and keeping children and teachers safe during any outbreak.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians last week called by a national plan for this purpose.

This should include prioritizing school staff for vaccination.

And until we have high vaccination coverage, yes tests that well-implemented school-based mitigation measures work to prevent in educational settings.

This could include a number of risk-adjusted measures, such as keeping non-essential adults off-campus, wearing masks on high school students (and possibly elementary students as well), surprising schedules, reducing size. of classes and improve classroom ventilation.

Following the effects of the new variants on children’s health, along with detailed risk-benefit analyzes, we will determine the best time to vaccinate children and adolescents.

Meanwhile, parents and all eligible adults can do their best to protect children and reduce the risk of school outbreaks by vaccinating themselves.

Opinion: Children should be vaccinated against COVID-19

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