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Why are so few infants getting sick from coronavirus?

Usually, it’s infants, individuals in old age, and immune-compromised people that are most vulnerable to new diseases. The coronavirus is no different, with one exception. For some mysterious reason, infants aren’t getting sick, and scientists are at a loss to explain why.

A new study that surveyed those sick from the virus in China found only nine hospitalized cases of infants under one year of age. That’s stunning, considering that more than 65,000 people have been reported infected in mainland China as of February 14th, 2020. None of those nine cases developed severe complications, reporting only mild fevers or respiratory symptoms, reports Science News.

The report comes on the heels of another recent study which found no evidence that the new coronavirus (also called COVID-19) can be transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn fetus. This study also looked at umbilical cord blood and the mothers’ breast milk, both of which tested negative for the virus in every case. Doctors did not test whether the virus might be transmitted via vaginal delivery, though given the complete lack of reported cases of such transmission, it’s safe to say that it’s rare if it occurs at all.

This might mean that babies are more resistant to the virus, which could offer clues on how the virus works and how health officials might be able to treat it. Right now, it’s unclear why young children are at such low risk, but it’s possible that the virus simply effects infants differently, similar to how children with the chickenpox virus show milder symptoms than adults do.

Officials note that while they could only identify nine cases of infants that were hospitalized with coronavirus, this doesn’t mean that children aren’t susceptible to catching it. It’s possible that they can catch it at a normal rate, and even spread it, without showing any severe symptoms. All of the infants that were identified had at least one infected family member and became sick after their relatives fell ill.

Interestingly, low rates of infant hospitalization were also reported during the previous outbreaks of SARS and MERS, which are also types of coronaviruses similar to COVID-19.

Though the reasons remain mysterious for why infants appear resilient to getting sick from coronavirus, it’s welcome news in the aftermath of a disease that has proven deadly to other vulnerable populations.

Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

Why are so few infants getting sick from coronavirus?

Scientists are at a loss to explain why infants seem largely resistent to the pandemic.

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