Higher Than Expected COVID-19 Antibody Rates in Children in Northern Virginia

Falls Church, VA – Last summer, from July to October 2020, Inova Health System partnered with the Virginia Department of Health and George Mason University to conduct a COVID-19 serology (antibody) study to analyze the incidence of COVID-19 in children in Northern Virginia.

The analysis of blood samples from more than 1,000 children, ages 0 to 19 found that the overall antibody positivity rate in children was 8.5 percent (88/1038). COVID-19 antibodies were found in 8.2 percent of white children, 5.3% of black children, 5.7% of Asian children, and 16.2% of children with multiple racial origins. Children identified as Hispanic ethnicity had a 26.6% rate of antibody positivity.  When compared by age groups, the rate was 13.7% in young children (0-5 years), 7.5% in school-age (6-10 years), 5.1% in early adolescents (11-15 years) and 10.8% in older adolescents (16-19 years).

When compared to an adult serology study in Virginia, which reported a COVID-19 antibody positivity rate of 4.4%, the pediatric rate of positivity is nearly double.  The majority (66%) of children who had antibodies had no history of symptoms of COVID-19 infection, which highlights the silent or asymptomatic infection in children, and subsequent risk of transmission of infection to others.

“The pediatric serology project unexpectedly found more children were seropositive than we had anticipated,” said Rebecca Levorson, MD.  “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. As we continue to fight this pandemic, we need to consider ways to protect them and others by using the tools we have available to us, including masking, social distancing and vaccination.”

More information about this pediatric serology project can be found at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.28.21250466v1

Media Contact: Tracy Connell, tracy.connell@inova.org, 703-289-2087

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About Inova Children’s Hospital                          
Inova Children’s Hospital is Northern Virginia’s only dedicated children’s hospital, and is located on the Inova Fairfax Medical Campus. The 226-bed, full service children’s hospital offers a complete range of services in more than 40 pediatric subspecialties, including one of the area’s largest heart programs with pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery. The hospital serves as the Northern Virginia’s tertiary pediatric referral center; home to its only Pediatric Level I Trauma Center, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Inova Children’s Hospital is part of Inova, Northern Virginia’s leading nonprofit healthcare provider that serves more than 2 million people each year in the Washington, DC region and beyond. Inova was recognized in 2019 and 2020 by U.S. News & World Report, which named Inova Fairfax Hospital the #1 hospital in the Washington, DC region. All five Inova hospitals were awarded ‘A’ grades for the spring 2020 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades, recognizing Inova’s achievements in protecting patients from harm and providing safer healthcare. Each of Inova’s five hospitals holds a 5-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), distinguishing Inova as the highest-rated large health system in the U.S., and the only system to have all hospitals receive five stars. Inova Fairfax Medical Campus was named to the Fortune/IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals list, ranking in the top 10 nationwide among Major Teaching Hospitals. More information and statistics can be found at inova.org, inovachildrens.org and on Facebook.

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