A coronavirus outbreak at an overnight summer camp in Georgia suggests that children of any age are susceptible to the virus and might have a key role in spreading it.
At least 260 out of 597 attendees and staff members tested positive for the coronavirus, including campers younger than 10, researchers report in the July 31 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Younger children had the highest attack rates, or the total number of new cases per a specific group. Just over half of kids ages 6 to 10 tested positive.
“This investigation adds to the body of evidence demonstrating that children of all ages are susceptible to [coronavirus] infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission,” the researchers write. Most infected people didn’t have symptoms, which may have helped the virus spread undetected.
At the camp, a teenage staff member developed symptoms on June 22 — a day after campers arrived — and left the next day. On June 24, that teen’s coronavirus test result came back positive, and officials began sending attendees home. The camp was officially closed on June 27.
Science News headlines, in your inbox
Headlines and summaries of the latest Science News articles, delivered to your email inbox every Thursday.
Thank you for signing up!
There was a problem signing you up.
Overall, 44 percent of people at the camp were infected with the virus, most of whom were campers. Kids’ ages ranged from 6 to 19 years old.
Not everyone at the camp had test results available for analysis. Since some people were not tested or their test results were not reported, the number of people infected might have been underestimated, the researchers write.
Camp officials had required anyone at the camp to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test conducted within 12 days of arriving. Campers also participated in activities like singing in clusters — made up of kids staying in the same cabin. Although all trainees and staff were required to wear cloth masks, campers were not. Staff also did not keep windows and doors open to ensure buildings were well-ventilated.
It is still unclear how much of a role that children play in coronavirus transmission. Some contact tracing studies have suggested that kids younger than 10 are less likely than people in any other age group to transmit the virus to others. But younger people are more likely to have milder symptoms, and many cases in kids might go undetected (SN: 6/3/20).