Teenagers are twice as likely to be infected with COVID-19 as younger kids, according to an analysis released on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's big news, given that many kids are heading back to school right now — and whether or not that will lead to coronavirus outbreaks has been the subject of debate.
The CDC reviewed 277,285 cases of coronavirus in kids ranging from 5 to 17 years old who were diagnosed between March 1 and September 19 of this year. Nearly two in three of the cases were in kids older than 12. They found that children aged 5 to 11 had 19 cases in every 100,000 while teens aged 12 to 17 had 37.4 cases — almost double.
So far, experts can't say why teens seem to be at greater risk of getting the virus than younger kids. It's possible that teens are more likely to be tested, though, Helen Jenkins, PhD, an expert in infectious diseases and statistics at Boston University, told The New York Times. It's also possible that teens more more social than younger kids, who may only be seeing friends under strict parental supervision.
Ultimately, though, older kids seem to have roughly the same risk of contracting COVID-19 as adults, The New York Times reports.
The CDC study found that Black and Hispanic children are most likely to have more serious COVID-19 implications, a trend that's also true in adult patients. "Although mortality and hospitalization in school-aged children was low, Hispanic ethnicity, Black race, and underlying conditions were more commonly reported among children who were hospitalized or admitted to an ICU," the study authors wrote.
Worth noting: Younger kids may not be as likely to get COVID-19 as older kids and adults, but they can still get it — and they can still spread it. "Kids are the greatest vectors because they put their hands in their mouth and they touch each other and they spread it around from family to family," Shannon Sovndal, MD, the author of Fragile, told Refinery29 for an earlier article. A July study out of South Korea also revealed that children between the ages of 10 and 19 are more likely than younger kids or adults to infect others with the coronavirus.
What's more, if young kids are infected, it can lead them to contracting another inflammatory health condition. Symptoms include fevers as well as inflammation of the skin, blood vessels, and heart.
For better or for worse, many schools across the country are experimenting with at least partial reopening plans. What this new information should tell us, though, is that it's important for everyone to be as careful as possible: Wear a mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands often when you're in public. And, now that flu season is here, it's important to get your flu shot as well.