Will Covid-19 primarily be a children's disease?

A Young kid with mask.

A Young kid with mask.

If the SARS-CoV-2 virus becomes endemic to the world's population in the coming years, COVID-19 could behave like other cold coronaviruses, especially young children who have not yet been vaccinated or exposed to mock-up results. Because the severity of COVID-19 is generally lower in children, the overall burden of this disease is expected to decrease.

“Following infection by SARS-CoV-2, there has been a clear signature of increasingly severe outcomes and fatality with age,” said Ottar Bjornstad. “Yet, our modeling results suggest that the risk of infection will likely shift to younger children as the adult community becomes immune either through vaccination or exposure to the virus.”

Bjornstad stated that such changes have been seen in other coronaviruses and influenza viruses as they emerge and then become endemic.

“Historical records of respiratory diseases indicate that age-incidence patterns during virgin epidemics can be very different from endemic circulation,” he said. “For example, ongoing genomic work suggests that the 1889-1890 pandemic, sometimes known as the Asiatic or Russian flu — which killed one million people, primarily adults over age 70 — may have been caused by the emergence of HCoV-OC43 virus, which is now an endemic, mild, repeat-infecting cold virus affecting mostly children ages 7-12 months old.”

However, Bjornstad warned that the disease burden in this group could remain high as immunity to reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 in adults declines, although earlier exposure to the virus would reduce the severity of the disease. 

“Empirical evidence from seasonal coronaviruses indicates that prior exposure may only confer short-term immunity to reinfection, allowing recurrent outbreaks, this prior exposure may prime the immune system to provide some protection against severe disease,” said Bjornstad. “However, research on COVID-19 shows that vaccination provides stronger protection than exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, so we encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

“Regardless of immunity and mixing, the population-level burden of mortality may differ among countries because of varying demographics,” said Ruiyun Li, postdoctoral fellow, University of Oslo. “Our general model framework allows for robust predictions of age-dependent risk in the face of either short or long-term protective immunity, reduction of severity of disease given previous exposure, and consideration of the range of countries with their different demographics and social mixing patterns.”. 

sources:- Science blog

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