Mild symptoms could mask coronavirus infections in children, making them secret carriers who pose a danger to infants and the elderly, health experts theorize.
"Your children may not be as affected by this, but that’s all the more reason to be that much more vigilant," Dr. Kevin Kathrotia of Millennium Neonatology told FOX Business. "From the very little data we've seen from the CDC, kids do appear to be relatively spared from this. What we don't know is the true infection rate."
At least six Americans have died from coronavirus as of Tuesday.
"Most of the people getting sick are middle-aged or older. The ones getting really sick have a lot of other comorbidities," Dr. Snehal Doshi of Millennium Neonatology told FOX Business.
Doshi pointed out that it would be easy for a child in a closed environment like a school to spread the virus to as many as 1,000 other students, who would then carry it home to their neighborhoods and families. For example, a handful of schools in Oregon and Washington have temporarily closed after students or employees tested positive for the virus.
There could be two reasons why coronavirus may be harder to detect in children, Kathrotia said. Since children get cold viruses at more than twice the rate of adults, they could have cross-immunity, Kathrotia said. Or their less-developed immune systems may react less vigorously than adults when confronted by the coronavirus.
"What parents can do is very basic: Make sure kids are washing hands, which they should do anyways. Proper handwashing with both soap and water and singing 'Happy Birthday' twice," Kathrotia said.
Coronavirus' possible repercussions for infants is largely unknown, Kathrotia said. He reminded anyone thinking of visiting a neonatal intensive care unit to stay home if they have cold symptoms or other signs of sickness.
"That could be quite devastating to a newborn," he said. "Fortunately, we have not seen this. NICUs are very strict about handwashing before you enter."