Top Jewish doctor says most children don’t transmit coronavirus

Dr Karyn Moshal, who specialises in infectious diseases, said there was 'mounting worldwide data' confirming her finding


Coronavirus does not “as a rule” pass from children to adults, a leading doctor specialising in infectious diseases among children has told the JC.

Dr Karyn Moshal’s “counter-intuitive” finding, she said, should help parents assess the risks involved in keeping children away from school against the far smaller risk of their children contracting Covid-19 and passing it on to others in their family.

“We’ve found that Covid-19 is different to other infectious diseases, such as influenza or pneumococcal disease, where children can be carriers who pass it on to their families,” said Dr Moshal, a senior paediatric infectious diseases consultant at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in central London. “It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s really good news.”

Dr Moshal, 55, is Jewish, originally from Durban, South Africa, and has lived in the UK for 30 years. She first shared some of her insights during a South Hampstead Synagogue webinar.

Experience in the UK backs up international data showing that children are unlikely to pass Covid-19 to their parents or to other adults, Dr Moshal added.

Dr Moshal said the number of children being admitted with Covid-19 at the hospital had itself been low, suggesting that children are less prone to Covid-19 than adults. “There is mounting worldwide data confirming this,” she said.

One of the most recent studies she cited was carried out in a coronavirus epicentre in Israel.

In crowded households where a majority of adults had the disease, only one in ten children under five years old were infected, and fewer than one in three children over 5 had it. “This study indicates that the virus passes from adults to children and not from children to adults, as a rule,” she said.

The risks for parents sending their children to school would come almost exclusively from any contact between the parents themselves, or between parents and the school staff.

Dr Moshal declined to comment directly on the government’s rules on the school environment, nor on whether any social distancing between children was necessary.

“Most cases we have seen of Covid-19 in children are very mild.

“And the risk to school staff will be no greater than the risks in any other work environment where adults socially distance from each other,” Dr Moshal said.

She pointed out that the physical and mental health risks to children in prolonged periods of absence from school were very considerable and should be weighed up against any risk involved in returning to school.

“We as paediatricians are very concerned about children missing out on the benefits of the school community environment and the safety, structure and routine that schools provide, in addition to education. Additionally, by not having children at school many families find themselves under greater strain and that has a serious knock-on effect on children’s wellbeing.”

She says she has “no qualms at all” about having sent her 9-year-old daughter back to school this month.

“Children have presented to hospital with severe or even life-threatening diseases, which, if seen earlier, could have been treated more rapidly with less distress to parents and families. We are very concerned that in the current atmosphere many parents, when their children are ill, delay bringing them to hospitals or their GPs, for fear of contracting Covid-19. This really does put children’s lives at risk,” Dr Moshal added.

Paul Cainer is the editor of

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