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COVID-19 and kids: The latest numbers, the science, and one expert’s plans for his own children

Dr. Michael Chang says the global research is generally positive about coronavirus and kids.

HOUSTON — Since school hallways emptied in the spring, the percentage of Houston-area children and teen positive coronavirus cases has grown, according to a KHOU 11 Investigates analysis of counties that disclose the data.

In April, Montgomery and Brazoria county health officials reported 6% of all COVID-19 cases were in the 0-19 age group. Harris County reported 8% of total cases for the same age bracket.

Since then, that has jumped to 12% for those three counties.

“Every day brings us new information,” said Dr. Michael Chang, infectious disease pediatrician with UTHealth and Memorial Hermann.

Still, Dr. Chang said the global research is generally positive about coronavirus and kids. Generally, children are less likely to get the virus in the first place and generally have more mild symptoms than adults or are more likely to be asymptomatic.

“And a consistent trend is that kids seem to be less likely to spread infection to each other, and also seem less likely to spread infection to adults,” Dr. Chang said.

“And so really adult-to-adult transmission seems to be what’s driving this pandemic so far.”

Credit: KHOU
In April, Montgomery and Brazoria county health officials reported 6% of all COVID-19 cases were in the 0-19 age group. Harris County reported 8% of total cases for the same age bracket. Since then, that has jumped to 12% for those three counties.

It raises the question — why? What is different in children?

One theory, according to a study at UTHealth and Baylor College of Medicine, is the difference in the lungs between adults and children. Researchers found an adult has more enzymes called “ACE2” than the developing lungs of a child. They believe those enzymes act as pathways which allow the virus to enter the body’s cells.

Think of them as tiny doors in the lungs — the fewer the doors, the fewer ways for the novel coronavirus to come in.

Credit: KHOU
Researchers found an adult has more enzymes called “ACE2” than the developing lungs of a child. They believe those enzymes act as pathways which allow the virus to enter the body’s cells.

“Perhaps it may be the immature immune system in the children that is actually helping them in a way,” said Dr. Bindu Akkanti with UTHealth and Memorial Hermann.

They are all factors for parents to consider as many face a choice of in-person school or online learning.

Parents including Dr. Michael Chang, a father of two elementary-age children.

“My wife and I have had long discussions about this, but I actually am in favor of sending my kids to school,” he said.

Dr. Chang added that he based his decision on current information and things can rapidly change. He said it’s a balance for parents — there are many benefits to an in-school experience, but no school, no matter what measures it takes, can mitigate 100% the risk of coronavirus transmission.

overwhelmingly spared? K. Lingappan,1 X H. Karmouty-Quintana,2 J. Davies,1 B. Akkanti,3 and M. T.

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