Why scientists think children may be less susceptible to severe coronavirus cases

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  • Nicholas Christakis
    American physician and sociologist

While children certainly aren't immune to the dangers of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, studies show they are at substantially lower risk of developing severe symptoms than adults.

That's rare when it comes to infectious diseases. Nicholas Christakis, a physician and professor of social and natural science at Yale University, points out that such diseases are the leading killers of children under the age of 5 around the globe each year. Yet, COVID-19 does not appear to be a contributor to the trend.

Christakis says scientists aren't sure exactly, but there are some theories developing. One possibility is that kids have more "adaptive" immune systems because they're still developing. Immune systems for adults are based more on memory, making them more susceptible to an unfamiliar virus, like the new coronavirus behind the pandemic. Along those lines, because many adults have built up immunity to other coronaviruses, their bodies might be overreacting to the virus.

Another dose of good news, Christakis surmises, is that children probably won't become more susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19 if it becomes endemic as they age, even if they lose some of the theoretical immunological protections that are present only in youthful systems.

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