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Coronavirus US: NIH to track spread among 2,000 families

As students prepare to head back to school, a new study will be tracking the rate of novel coronavirus spread among children and their families.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) is looking at transmission among nearly 2,000 households across the US. 

Researchers hope to determine the percentage of children who become infected, how many adults subsequently contract the virus, and if infection differs between children who have asthma or other allergic conditions and children who do not

It comes as several studies and anecdotal reports have been published over the last month, which have found that children of all ages have become infected, and then pass the disease on to their family members. 

‘Our schools are little mini microcosms of our cities that they’re in – what’s happening in cities is what’s going to happen in schools,’ lead author Dr Tina Hartert, a professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told The Wall Street Journal.   

‘Until there is definitive data one way or the other, we have reason to believe from decades of data from other respiratory viruses that children are very good transmitters. There isn’t a lot of reason to believe that that wouldn’t be the case with this virus.’  

President Donald Trump has been pushing for schools across the country to fully reopen for the fall semester. 

He called recommendations about school reopenings made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘very tough and expensive guidelines’ on Twitter earlier this month.

Trump also threatened to cut funding if learning institutions do not fully reopen.

However, public health experts have said that schools need to prepare with more than social distancing and masks but also by testing students and staff and, if someone tests positive, determining how long they quarantine for.

Some countries have been successful, such as Norway and Denmark, but many – including France, Israel and South Korea – have had to close schools after reopening due to spikes in infections.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an outlier, calling for in-person classes in the fall, issuing a statement that says ‘schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being.’   

But a recent report from the organization found that about 97,000 children contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the last two weeks of July.

That is a 40 percent increase from the total number of cases before the 14-day study period.   

What’s more, a CDC report found that at least 260 campers and staff members became infected with coronavirus at a Georgia sleepaway summer camp in June.

Health officials say some camp employees were required to wear cloth masks but campers were not, and that large groups of children slept in poorly ventilated cabins and likely spread infectious droplets in the air while singing or cheering.

While some reports have heightened the awareness of children becoming infected, others have raised the risk of their family members.

A study from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at more than 59,000 contacts of 5,706 COVID-19 patients in South Korea from January 20 to March 27.  

They found the highest COVID-19 rate among household members was for children between ages 10 and 19 with 18.6 percent testing positive. 

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