Northern Va. kids found to have ‘unexpectedly’ higher rates of COVID-19 antibodies

Serology tests on children in Northern Virginia to determine whether they’ve ever been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, show positivity rates twice that of adults.

The study was conducted by the Virginia Department of Health, Inova Health System and George Mason University from July to October 2020 and involved more than 1,000 children 19-years-old and younger.

“The pediatric serology project unexpectedly found more children were seropositive than we had anticipated,” said Dr. Rebecca Levorson, division director for Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Inova Children’s Hospital, in a news release.

The overall antibody positivity rate in children was 8.5%, while a study on Northern Virginia adults revealed a COVID-19 antibody positivity rate of 4.4%.

The study found children who identify as Hispanic were disproportionally impacted.

Antibody positivity rate by race:

Antibody positivity rate by age:

Levorson is concerned about the risk of children silently spreading the virus to others, because 66% of those with antibodies were asymptomatic.

“Most of these children did not have symptoms, which makes it difficult to know who may be infectious and who is not at a specific time. Nearly a quarter of the U.S. population is children, and as they may represent a larger proportion of SARS-CoV-2 disease than we previously thought, we need to recognize that children will continue to be infected with and possibly asymptomatically spread this disease,” Levorson said.

“As we continue to fight this pandemic, we need to consider ways to protect [children] and others by using the tools we have available to us, including masking, social distancing and vaccination.”

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