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Is the coronavirus Delta variant easier for children to catch and more dangerous?

A child plays in the rose gardens in New Farm Park in Brisbane. Source: AAP

Queensland's latest COVID-19 outbreak is seeing more children infected, with the cluster linked to several schools. It's a trend that appears to be replicated around the world. But does that mean the Delta variant is more transmissible between children, and when so many aren't eligible for a vaccine, what can be done to protect them?

When COVID-19 first emerged, one less worry was that children were at lower risk of severe disease and death.

But with school students making up the majority of cases in Queensland's latest outbreak, some people are concerned that the Delta variant has a higher infection rate among children.

Does the increased visibility of cases among children mean they're more at risk, though?

Well, not exactly, says the Director of the Child and Adolescent Health PhD Program at the University of Melbourne, Professor Fiona Russell.

"There is a study that's shown that the viral load, so the amount of virus that you've got, is about a thousand times more for Delta. And so for any age group, for anyone that's got it, it will be more transmissible for anyone."

Director of Epidemiology at the Doherty Institute, Professor Jodie McVernon, says while it's concerning when children become infectious, it's really 20 to 39-year-olds who are the main transmitters.

She says part of the reason children appear to be making up a larger percentage of positive cases in some parts of the world is due to successful adult vaccination programs.

"Clearly in countries where there have been high levels of immunisation uptake, and where schools have been one of the more free social venues, we have seen many reports of increasing representation of children in the disease cases, and we would expect that within that context."

 

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