At the press conference of the Crisis Center, virologist Steven Van Gucht from Sciensano presented an extensive study on the impact of the coronavirus on Belgian children under the age of 18. The Belgian study of children confirms that secondary infections occur less at school than at home, for example, and that children are less likely to be hospitalized.
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The study covers the period from the start of the epidemic, early March, to the end of June. Children are understood to be under 18s. Although they were tested less often, especially at the beginning of the epidemic, the percentage of children who tested positive was 1.8 percent, compared to 3.6 percent for adults. Children accounted for 2.5 percent of the total number of Covid-19 cases, while they make up 20 percent of the population.
The same study, this time based on data from the CLBs (Pupil Guidance Centers) and their French-speaking counterparts, also found that 378 individuals in schools tested positive, 270 pupils and 108 staff members. Following this, 4,715 people had to be quarantined because of possible contact with an infected person, mainly students. In the end, it was found that only 1 percent of that quarantined group developed symptoms or tested positive. It concerned 11 staff members (4.7 percent) and 36 students (0.8 percent). The number of so-called secondary infections at school is therefore “very low”, said Van Gucht. In the home situation, the percentage of secondary infections is 10 to 20 percent, according to him.
Finally, it was also found that children became seriously ill less often. Only 267 children would have been hospitalized because of Covid-19, which is 1.6 percent of the total number of sick children. For people over 65 this is 10 percent or more. However, children with so-called Kawasaki-like disease are not included in the study. It is a condition that is sometimes diagnosed in children after a Covid infection, said Van Gucht. Those cases are registered separately.
On average, children were in hospital for three days. The very youngest, in particular, were admitted to hospital, probably out of concern and as a precaution if such a young child develops a fever and the virus is diagnosed, Van Gucht said. Half were younger than a year, a third even younger than three months. One fifth of all children developed serious complications. Only seven children (or 3 percent) in hospitals ended up in intensive care.
No deaths in children were reported in the study. Van Gucht pointed out that outside the study there was a death in a girl of 12 years, and later in a girl of 3 years.
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