Study: More than one-third of children with COVID-19 are asymptomatic

New study suggests reported COVID-19 cases are "likely just the tip of the iceberg."

Study: More than one-third of children with COVID-19 are asymptomatic

As the pandemic rages on, the medical community is continuing to learn more about the novel coronavirus.

A new study suggests that more than one-third of children with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.

The research from the University of Alberta suggests that children who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 represent just a fraction of those who actually have the virus.

"When we see reports of 1,200 new cases per day in the province of Alberta, that's likely just the tip of the iceberg -- there are likely many people who don't know they have the disease and are potentially spreading it," said Finlay McAlister, a professor who led the study.


McAlister's team reviewed the cases of 2,463 children who were tested for COVID-19 between March and September.

1,987 kids tested positive, while 476 tested negative for COVID-19. Of the children who tested positive, 714 reported being asymptomatic. That's almost 36% of all positive cases.

"It speaks to the school safety programs," McAlister explained. "We can do all the COVID-19 questionnaires we want, but if one-third of the kids are asymptomatic, the answer is going to be no to all the questions -- yet they're still infected."

Interestingly, while the researchers found that the most common symptoms of COVID-positive patients were coughing, a runny nose, and a sore throat, those symptoms were actually reported more often by patients who tested negative.

Having symptoms of COVID-19 doesn't necessarily mean a child has the virus and not having symptoms doesn't mean that the child doesn't have it, either.

"Of course, kids are at risk of contracting many different viruses, so the COVID-specific symptoms are actually more things like loss of taste and smell, headache, fever, and nausea and vomiting, not runny nose, a cough and sore throat," McAlister said.

Ultimately, if you feel ill at all, doctors recommend you stay home, monitor your symptoms, and speak with your doctor about getting tested for COVID-19.

Even if you feel well, medical professionals want you to stay home as much as possible, practice social distancing, and wear a mask in public.

"Some people with COVID feel well and don't realize they have it so they socialize with friends and unintentionally spread the virus, and I think that's the big issue," McAlister said.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

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