Children suffer less from Sars

Children seem to be spared the deadly symptoms of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), suggests an analysis of the Canadian outbreak.

Children seem to be spared the deadly symptoms of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), suggests an analysis of the Canadian outbreak.

The global Sars outbreak killed 916 and sickened 8,422 between November 2002 and August 2003, according to the World Health Organisation. Only a handful of victims were children, despite many being exposed to the virus.

Of 247 probable Sars cases in Toronto, just 14 were under 12 years of age, physician Ari Bitnun of the city's Hospital for Sick Children told this week's interscience conference on antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy in Chicago. All 14 became sick after contact with relatives who subsequently developed Sars, or who had visited an area suffering a Sars epidemic.

Despite fever, cough and congestion, all recovered from their infection without the help of a respirator. X-rays and blood tests showed their illnesses to be no worse than those of 10 other children admitted to the same hospital with confirmed non-Sars respiratory illness at around the same time. "Our results indicate that Sars is a relatively mild, non-specific illness in children," said Bitnun.

The children got better more quickly as well - all recovered within a week or two. "Their parents were still ill two months later," Bitnun told the meeting.

Children's naive immune system may have helped them to survive, Bitnun suspects.

Most Sars deaths were from pneumonia, typically caused by an immune overreaction to a lung infection. An immune system that fails to put up a fight makes some other infections, such as hepatitis A and chicken pox, milder in children.

The GuardianTramp

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