Mystery surrounds how one in four children in NSW who have contracted COVID-19 had no known contact with an infected person.
But the most comprehensive study of all the children found to be infected with coronavirus in the state has found children are not the superspreaders that some parents fear.
Researchers have not found a single example of children spreading COVID-19 to other children.
In fact, the most dangerous place for children to contract the virus is not school, but in the home from other adults.
“Where known, the majority of children (34 cases) were infected by a household member, typically a parent who had a known exposure to COVID-19 outside the home,” the NSW Health Department report found.
“No child was found to have been infected by another child.”
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The rate of diagnosed COVID-19 infection in adults was approximately 10 times the rate reported in children.
But while 74 per cent of cases involved contact with a known person who was infected, there were a group of children for whom the person who infected them was a mystery.
“There were nine households in which a child was the first in the family known to have COVID-19 and the family members had no known previous exposure to COVID-19,” the report found.
“Child-to-adult transmission was likely in one household involving a 17-year-old and his father. No additional cases were identified among the remaining 20 household members. While children are known to spread other respiratory diseases within households, this was not observed for COVID-19.”
Infectious diseases physician Professor Peter Collingon said the results were good news in terms of the reassuring parents about the safety of returning children to school.
“It tells us that children can get it but they seem to get it 10 times less often than adults. If you have enough children infected you will get that as well. Therefore schools with children under 15 are among the safer places to be.
“But it’s not a zero risk. Nobody is saying that. The good news is it’s not like influenza. We don’t know why. It may be because they have less ACE 2 receptors in their nose. If you’re a child, you have much less of these receptors in your nose. Really old people are not more susceptible to the virus, they just have more complications.”
The NSW health data tracked all known cases of COVID-19 in NSW from January to May 23 this year.
It found that 81 children were diagnosed with COVID-19 and of those including 59 were locally acquired infections. Nearly one in four infections among children were overseas-acquired infections.
Even though testing rates were lower in children compared with adults, so was the proportion positive of tests.
The proportion of tests that were positive ranged from 0.1 per cent in children aged 0-4 years up to 0.3 per cent in children aged 12 to 17 years compared with 0.6 per cent to 1 per cent in adult age groups.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released new figures today on the impact of the coronavirus on parents’ working lives and the number of workers forced to work from home to care for children.
It found 46 per cent of women stayed home compared to 17 per cent of men who were more likely to still travel to work.
A majority of parents experienced difficulties working from home including problems concentrating on their work, feeling lonely and one in three parents reported rising anxiety.
One in five parents worked reduced hours to care for children at home and 13 per cent took leave to cover homeschooling demands.
Originally published as Children most at risk of virus at home