The delta variant has parents and state officials on high alert as children across the country return to in-person learning this week. And while concerns over the continued spread of coronavirus are hyper-focused on students gathering in the classroom, pediatricians are warning parents to stay vigilant at home with toddlers and babies.
A study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics suggests children under the age of 3 are more likely than teens to transmit the virus to other members of the household.
Researchers from Public Health Ontario, a Canadian public health agency, looked at 6,280 households with pediatric COVID-19 cases from June to December 2020, grouping them into four age categories: 0 to 3, 4 to 8, 9 to 13 and 14 to 17.
The study found that while teens were more likely than babies and toddlers to become infected with COVID-19, a statistical model showed those 0 to 3 years old were more likely to transmit the virus.
Experts say the study’s findings don’t necessarily mean babies and toddlers are more infectious than teens and other young children. They may be more likely to transmit the virus simply because they are often in close contact with parents and caregivers.
More than 27% of households observed in the study experienced secondary transmission in which a sick child infected other family members. The highly contagious delta variant only makes transmission within a household that much easier.
While the early waves of COVID-19 largely spared children, the latest delta variant has been far less choosey, leading to more child hospitalizations. Nationwide, nearly 121,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 last week, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.
Health experts said vaccination is the best way to protect parents from getting sick if their child brings home the virus. It also decreases the risk of bringing home the virus to unvaccinated children.