One piece of good news about SARS: Children seem to have milder symptoms and be less infectious than adults. Out of 333 people killed by the disease, not one of them has been a child. A study of 10 Hong Kong children with SARS showed that kids under the age of eight had far milder symptoms than teenagers and adults. “SARS in young children does not seem as frightening as in older adults,” says pediatrician Tai Fai Fok.

Fok observed 10 children who were admitted to hospitals between March 13 and 18. Five were between 18 months and eight years old, and five were between 13 and 16 years old.He found that the five teenagers had symptoms similar to SARS in adults: muscle pains, tiredness and fever. However, the younger children mainly had coughs and runny noses, with no muscle pains or fever.

Eight of the 10 children were going to school when they came down with SARS, but none of their classmates caught it, meaning they may be less infectious than teens or adults.

Fok suggests two possible reasons for these differences. “They tend to have all kinds of viral infections,” he says. “Antibodies may cross react with the SARS virus giving some kind of protection.” The second reason could be because the children’s immune systems are still developing. He says, “In adults much of the lung damage in SARS is due to the body’s own immune reaction to the virus.”

For those of us who could picture SARS rampaging through our kids’ schools like head lice, this is a relief.

Meanwhile, China is worrying about dirty money. Its banks have quarantined all banknotes for 24 hours and are encouraging the use of bank cards, in case the SARS virus is being passed via money. A spokesperson for a Chinese bank says, “When suspicious banknotes come back in, we first sterilize them with disinfectant, and expose them under ultraviolet light for four hours.” The bank is also disinfecting its 700 ATMs in Beijing daily.

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