Day Cares Aren't COVID 'Super Spreaders,' Study Finds

Day Cares Aren't COVID 'Super Spreaders,' Study Finds
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Key Takeaways

  • Day care centers aren't where most young children catch COVID, new research finds

  • Instead, it is far more likely they will become infected if a family member gets sick

  • COVID transmission rates within child care centers was only about 2% to 3%, while that rate hit 50% after someone in the home was infected

THURSDAY, Nov. 30, 2023 (Healthday News) -- Parents should worry less about whether their young child could catch COVID while in day care, and worry more about them being infected at home once a family member falls ill, new research suggests.

In the study, COVID transmission rates within child care centers was only about 2% to 3%. Meanwhile, low rates of infection were also seen in homes where kids were attending day care, with only 17% of household infections stemming from children who caught COVID while in child care.

Overall, investigators found that only 1 in 20 symptomatic children attending child care centers tested positive for the virus.

The story was starkly different when it came to the home front: After someone in a household tested positive, transmission jumped to 50% for children and 67% for adults. And young children often caught COVID from people outside of day care.

The study was published recently in the journal JAMA Network Open.

"Our findings support relaxing SARS-CoV-2 testing and exclusion recommendations for mildly symptomatic or exposed children," the researchers said in the study.

Regardless of where a young child is most likely to become infected and possibly spread COVID, experts still urge vaccination is the best way to protect kids.

“We strongly recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for young children to disrupt the high rates of transmission that we saw occur in households that can lead to missed work and school,” said researcher Dr. Andrew Hashikawa, a clinical professor of emergency medicine at Michigan Medicine.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now advises that kids with congestion, runny noses or other respiratory symptoms get tested for COVID and stay home if positive.

The findings suggest these recommendations could be revised to match less stringent guidance for other serious respiratory viruses like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

"While it's crucial to remain vigilant in our efforts to manage the spread of SARS-CoV-2, it seems that prioritizing testing and extended exclusion periods for children in child care centers may not be the most practical approach, as it can place undue financial burden on families from frequent testing, result in missed work and hinder children's critical access to quality care and education," Hashikawa said.

More information

The CDC has more on what to do if you are exposed to COVID-19.

SOURCE: Michigan Medicine, news release, Nov. 27, 2023

What This Means For You

Parents who worry their young children will catch COVD while in day care can relax, claims a new study that found transmission at home after a family member falls ill was far more common.

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