June 16, 2020 / 11:55 AM / 17 days ago

Under 20s around half as susceptible to COVID-19, study finds

LONDON (Reuters) - People under 20 are around half as susceptible to COVID-19 as people aged 20 or above, according to research published on Tuesday, and clinical symptoms of the pandemic disease appear in only about a fifth of infections in children and teens.

The research, a modelling study using data from 32 locations China, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Canada and South Korea, found that by contrast, COVID-19 symptoms appear in 69% of infections in people aged 70 or older.

The findings suggest that school closures - introduced in many countries as part of lockdowns aimed at controlling the coronavirus pandemic - are likely to have a limited impact on transmission of the disease, the researchers said.

Published in the journal Nature Medicine, the study compared the effect school closures on simulated outbreaks of flu - which is known to spread swiftly in children - and of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“For COVID-19, there was much less of an effect of school closures,” said Rosalind Eggo, an infectious disease modeller

at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who co-led the study.

She added, however, that the findings come from simulated outbreaks and need to be reinforced with real-world research.

FILE PHOTO: Children are seen washing their hands at Heath Mount School as some schools reopen, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Watton-at-Stone, Britain, June 2, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge/File Photo

Using demographic data from the six countries, as well as from six studies on estimated COVID-19 infection rates and symptom severity across different age groups, the model showed that people under 20 are about half as susceptible to COVID-19 as people over 20, and that among 10 to 19 year-olds, only 21% of those infected had clinical symptoms.

The researchers also simulated COVID-19 epidemics in 146 capital cities around the world and found that the total expected number of clinical cases varied with median age.

“The age structure of a population can have a significant impact,” said Nicholas Davies, who co-led the work. “Countries with more young people may experience a lower burden of COVID-19.”

Editing by William Maclean

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